Don’t Engage in Anabaptist Handwringing Over Osama bin Laden

There is quite a debate underway online regarding how Christians should respond to the death of Osama bin Laden. Are we to rejoice over the justice in the death of one who is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, most notably the three thousand souls lost on September 11, 2001? Or are we supposed to so major on the fact that “God is not pleased by the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33: 11 ) that we should stoically stand by and not “rejoice with those who rejoice,” even though we’ve been previously weeping with them (Romans 12:15)?

 The book of Proverbs does read, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness” (Proverbs 11:10). Furthermore, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but a terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15). Methinks the instinct to worry about being too happy over Osama bin Laden’s death is a reflection of the influence of Anabaptist pacifism. It’s pervasive in Western Christianity nowadays. Try not to let it unduly influence you. For an example of what I mean, compare this blogger’s dilemma over how to react. Should he listen to the Anabaptist on the one shoulder, or the red-blooded American patriot chanting “U-S-A!” on the other? That he attributes his angst over the death of a mass-murdering terrorist to Anabaptism shows how this is the application of Anabaptist pacifism. For you Star Wars fans, remember Alderaan? They were a peaceful planet with no weapons, weren’t they? Look what happened to them.

While it is regrettable that Osama bin Laden never repented of his sins and trusted Christ for salvation from sin and the wrath of God—none of us are glad because he’s now suffering eternal conscious torment in hell. We’re relieved with the loved-ones of bin Laden’s and al Qaida’s victims that justice is served. There is no contradiction here. 

At Underdog Theology, Warren Cruz takes the approach that our deceitfully depraved hearts may take us down the slippery slope of rejoicing in bin Laden’s eternal destiny though we intended to only rejoice in the temporal justice in his demise. Be that as it may, I’m inclined to take Luther’s approach (HT: Wikiquote):

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sin be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death and the world. We commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13), are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. 

Letter 99, Paragraph 13. Erika Bullmann Flores, Tr. from:Dr. Martin Luther’s Saemmtliche Schriften Dr. Johann Georg Walch Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15, cols. 2585-2590

In other words, don’t let the fact that you may imperfectly rejoice in the justice of bin Laden’s death keep you from so rejoicing. Christ’s perfect righteousness covers the imperfect righteousness of those who trust him.

U-S-A! U-S-A! 

Update: For a tad more balanced and scholarly approach to making the same point, try Michael Horton writing for Christianity Today today in “The Death of Osama bin Laden: What Kind of Justice Has Been Done?” Here’s the second of Horton’s three implications of the so-called Reformation doctrine of the Two Kingdoms as it relates to the only event in today’s headlines:

Second, it means that we cannot rejoice in the death of the wicked any more than does God (Ezek. 18:23). We may take satisfaction that temporal justice has been served, but Christians should display a sober restraint. When Christ returns, bringing infinite justice in his wake, his saints will rejoice in the death of his enemies. For now, however, he calls us to pray for our enemies, even for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). This is the day of salvation, calling sinners to repent and believe the gospel. We may delight in the temporal justice shown to evildoers, but leave the final justice to God. (HT: Riddleblog).


42 responses

  1. Well said Sir John. What a balancing act we have IF we are thinkers. For I would submit that it is easily possible for the reformed adherent to be too happy about the demise of sinners just as it is probable that the earnest disciple will become too grieved over a temporal correction. But the one whose life bears self-examination will not judge the world (or the Church) for its response to the end of a violent man so much as he/she will marvel that he or she excapes the same fate due to an exchanged life and what it means that he/she/I still live(s) here.

    1. Amen! How gracious God is that you and I still walk the earth. We deserve to do so no more than Osama did. But God is rich in mercy.

    2. I would beg to differ, John, as we are commanded to judge those in the church. While not judging those outside.

      It is an interesting commentary for me to reflect on that mainstream American Christianity does not practice church discipline, but it largely desires to inflict its morality upon the entire nation through the enactment of laws.

  2. Am I not allowed to decide for myself as a believer (& priest) how to appropriately respond to the death of Osama?

    1. Am I not allowed to offer free advice even if you’re free not to take it?

      1. It would be nice if you didnt.

    2. Jason, I don’t know why you want to sound like you are taking this so personally. I’m not arguing everyone has to respond the way I do, I am arguing that the way I respond is consistent with the Word of God, and critiquing what I see to be a flawed or overstated approach which unnecessarily restricts liberty in Christ on the issue. But it’s a funny approach you’re taking to tell me not to express my opinion on my own blog. If you have some aspect of it you’d like to discuss, I’m willing to give you a hearing.

      My initial reply to your comment was worded as it was because I thought you were having fun with me. I was believing the best that you were just being sarcastic, as you are often wont to be. But now I’m not sure.

      1. I think it boils down to your dogmatism drives me nuts.

    3. Then why follow my blog at all?

  3. Stumbled upon your site in looking for Anabaptist responses to this event. If I may, I would like to correct you in your commonly held belief that Anabaptists believe in pacifism. True Anabaptist thinking is opposed to worldly pacifism. Anabaptists believe that the way of Jesus and the original desire of the Creator is that of non-resistance to evil, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-48.

    For a more detailed account, please see:

    1. Thanks for the link and the clarification, Gord. I wield my broad brush knowingly and without reserve. I’ve seen enough “worldly” pacifists appeal to, and borrow from Anabaptist thinkers on non-resistance to evil, that I take it as a, if not the, root of secular pacifism.

      1. Fair enough then John. Conservative Anabaptists believe non-resistance to evil to be the only biblical response, and those church groups which subscribe to non-violence or pacifism are not listening to nor following Jesus.

        And those worldly pacifists you write about who use Anabaptist thinkers as the root of their thinking might do better to use the word of god as their root!

    2. The Reformed who take the so-called “Two-Kingdom” approach to the relationship between the church and the world believe Scripture calls us to live among and for the welfare of the secular city as Jeremiah called the Israelites in exile to do:

      “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

      Part of seeking its welfare involves its protection, which, as Gage points out in his comment, is fully affirmed by the apostle Paul in Romans 13. So, as private citizens, if so called, even believers may and ought to defend the city by participating in its function as God’s servant to carry out God’s temporal wrath on evildoers.

      1. Okay, how do we get from seeking welfare to protection (especially in light of Jesus command not to resist evil)?

        As for Romans 13, how do we get from subjection to active participation?

        This might be too much all for comments on a blog, to be sure. For the Anabaptist, the answer lies in a more fundamental doctrine which is the non-resistance. In the U.S. example, we cannot vote because it is as good as condoning killing. For example, the president is the commander in chief – and Christians have no place in military or police things.

    3. Protecting is an essential part of a community’s welfare. This being the case, those gifted and called to a vocation in that aspect of seeking the community’s welfare is part of the government to which all, Christian or otherwise, are to be subject. This may not be biblicist enough of a use of Scripture for you, but it is what I find to be necessary inferences drawn from the whole counsel of the Word of God. This is consistent with Christ’s command in Matt. 5:39 in that it is a prohibition against personal revenge. This does not prohibit seeking legitimate redress of grievance by means of the governing authorites.

      1. I don’t live online, so sometimes it takes me a while to get back…

        I think we need to back up a bit here, for my sake. In the Anabaptist perspective, the people of God are not to participate in government, because governments are “worldly kingdoms” and we are citizens of heaven, not of any earthly kingdom. While we may live within a country’s borders and therefore under that governments’ laws, we are precluded from any allegiance to that country and government. Heaven is our home and God is our protector. We have no need of physical protection from evil. Death is a joyous thing to the one who loves God.

        It is a fundamental principle that the laws of God do not contradict one another. What this means is that in order to keep one law another must be broken. The world might refer to this as the “white lie syndrome”. That is, you cannot tell a lie in order to accomplish a good purpose.

        Okay, with that background, let’s look at what you call “personal revenge”. Would you agree that Jesus is talking to the people of God in Chapter 5 of Matthew? If so, then it follows that the people of God are to do exactly as they are told to do by God. ie. not resist evil, turn the other cheek, love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you. It might be worth noticing that in v.45 Jesus is speaking to a plural you “sons” so we could take a corporate meaning from this. Even without the plural there, for the Anabaptist, it must be corporate. But that corporate is very limited: to the people of God. These commands and in fact all the laws of God do not and cannot apply to the world, they are only applicable to those who choose to follow them. Well, that’s not entirely correct. They really do apply to everyone – and everyone will be held accountable regardless; however, they do not apply insofar as the people of God do not expect the unregenerate to follow them and most certainly do not apply Godly discipline to those of the world.

        Understanding that believers are not to be yoked with unbelievers.(2Cor 6.14)

        And whereas governments are not made up of the regenerate as nations are not made up exclusively of the people of God, governments, by default, are not expected to follow the laws of God.

        So while scripture tells us that rulers are ordained by God, that does not mean that they will follow his law.

        Additionally, the individual believer has a mandate to follow the commandments of God, no matter the circumstances. So if participation in a government would force a believer to contravene an ordinance of the Lord, then it is not possible for a believer to participate. If participation did not do so, then it would be possible to participate in government. However, it is the very nature of government that it is there to “protect” it’s citizenry by any means. If part of the government, an individual believer would therefore be required by that commitment to participate in violence and killing, not to mention rewriting the laws of God. (This is a sub-plot, but worth a short mention. God can run the entire universe on only the revealed Word as we have it… a very, very short book compared with…. the books that contain the laws written by governments which almost always contravene and infringe on laws which God has instituted.) Therefore an individual regenerate is unable to participate in the government of the unregenerate.

        The most basic point is this: governments exact exclusive loyalty in their jurisdiction, but so does God – and his jurisdiction is universal. We cannot serve two masters – and cannot have divided loyalties.

        So yes, rulers have an obligation to “rule”, and their rule is God’s will… but that does not mean that their actions are Godly or regenerate, or have anything to do with how God desires his children to live.

        There can be no consistency between a command which prohibits retaliation (actually it goes further to command that we love those who are our enemies and show them that we love them: “go the extra mile”) and a corporate allowance of retaliation.

        The long and short of it is that the regenerate must follow the command regardless of time or place – and governments are free to do what they want – but the regenerate cannot be part of the government for that very reason.

    4. Here’s a question for you, Gord. What is the Anabaptist response to the fact that Peter did not call upon Cornelius to resign his commission in the Roman military when he believed and he and his household were baptized?

      1. Excellent question. Excellent. Not so easy to slip out of this one, eh?

        First, Peter was not God, and sinned greatly, even denying his association with Jesus. So not all Peter’s actions were kosher…

        Second, the point of the story is twofold: the change of heart – that even a military man’s heart can be changed – even a military man, who is by definition a murderer – because no murderer can enter heaven (1John 3.15). The other is the new unfolding story of the acceptance of the gentiles. I’m sure you know as well as I do that biblical accounts tend to be terse at times and verbose at others, for sometimes mysterious reasons.

        Third, to claim that Peter did not demand Cornelius resign his commission is a conclusion from a negative, without any evidence to the contrary and this is simply faulty logic. Simply because it is not recorded does not mean he did not say it. It will not claim that he did, because that is not recorded. The only thing we can postulate is that if he did stay a few days as per their request in the final verse of chapter 10, that they would have talked about many things. What they talked about…we do not know.

    5. You say, “In the U.S. example, we cannot vote because it is as good as condoning killing. For example, the president is the commander in chief – and Christians have no place in military or police things.”

      Romans 13:6 says taxes are paid specifically to finance the government as God’s minister to bear the sword. You can finance their killing, but you can’t vote for it? How does this follow?

      Don’t worry about there not being room to hash everything out, Gord–I’ve got room if you’ve got answers. Also, I pledge to find whatever answers you require as well. We’ve got a good discussion going here.

      1. My wife wrote about this several years ago in the context of capital punishment and whether or not we could live in a jurisdiction which used it. These are serious questions that end up having simple answers, if one is bold enough to believe them.

        Taxes are an interesting subject. Who pays taxes? The foreigner. So why then do citizens of the U.S. pay taxes? Interesting… what is the meaning of that?

        As for me, I pay all taxes which I owe by law. It’s a bit different for me, as I don’t have a SSN and earn very little. I choose not to earn much so that I limit my obligation in this department. I have God given freedom to choose to do this – everyone does. It just depends on how you live your life. I don’t want to pay a lot of taxes, so I don’t.

        As for the logic to answer your question, it goes like this:

        Paying due taxes is an obligation under the law of God.
        Paying due taxes is an obligation under the laws of governments.
        So whether I am solely a citizen of heaven, an atheist, or a reformed two-kingdom theorizer, I am required to pay all due taxes.

        Please note the use of the word “due” throughout – it is very important because we all choose how much in taxes to pay – all taxes are voluntary. I just don’t want to volunteer very much.

        One example of a tax I pay is gasoline tax… but I don’t expect much of that went to pay for the invasion of a sovereign nation… I’m sure there are ways that some of my money finds its way into the Navy Seals, or Tomahawk helicopters; I just don’t know and don’t know how I would find out.

        So pay taxes, yes, but don’t volunteer everything you earn.

    6. Matt 5:38-41 first of all regards a law given to judges to impose proportional judgments, but the Jews had misapplied it to a regulation for personal retaliation. Jesus’ words extend to relatively trivial matters of property, but not to matters of life and death. By these words he teaches us to suffer wrong, rather than to have a contentious, vengeful attitude toward those who would take advantage of us, but they do not teach us to sit idly (or “piously”) by and allow our spouse and children to be murdered. In such cases, even Christ himself would not condemn one acting in self-defense, or the defense of his family or community.

      Your words, “We have no need of physical protection from evil. Death is a joyous thing to the one who loves God,” seem to indicate a willingness to do just that, sit idly by and allow someone to murder your family. Any wife in her right mind would resent such a sentiment, regardless of how pious it may sound.

      I’ll have more to say later about some of your other comments.

      1. Perhaps you might be right here. All I know is the example Jesus gave us: that he chose to die, rather than resist. And for the record, my wife feels as I do… I guess that means she’s not in her right mind.

  4. John,
    The Reformed believe in Subjection as an ample response. Romans 13 makes it clear that Christians have to do hard things, and one of those hard things is to actually be in subjection to the government. Now I don’t say that lightly, as I believe I pay too much in income taxes, property taxes, etc…and all of these taxes go to a government who does all it can every day to allow women to murder their unborn, and it also keeps alive men and women who deserve death. But the Roman Govt was much worse in the case where Paul commanded them to obey the govt. So, I view the UBL situation very simply- Romans 13:5b “For he (the government in this context) is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” God uses the government for his purposes, to accomplish his desires in this case to exercise his wrath. We are in subjection until we are required to go against God’s revealed will (Acts 5)…
    So for now it is a happy American subjection(ism).

    1. You’re talking my language, Gage.

    2. John Viertel | Reply

      Hi Gage,
      From a hermeneutical standpoint, would you consider that to be subject to Rome is somewhat different from subjection to the US govt. Since the temporal authority of Rome (at least in the days of Jesus and Paul) was Caesar whereas the temporal authority of our government is, . . . well, us? Does this not bring family and “master” responsibilities into at least an equal footing with subjectionism? (This comment doesn’t deal so much with the justice dealt to bin Laden as it does with presuppositions regarding passive responses to taxes and social programs. And it may address Anabaptist stereotypes somewhat.) Just to be clear, I support a “both/and” position. I propose, unsuccessfully most of the time, to be subject as regarding personal outcome but responsibly assertive on behalf of others (my wife, children, grandchildren, parents, friends, etc.)

  5. Gord,
    According to Romans 13- I think it is abundantly clear that to pay taxes, and honor which we are commanded to do is considered “active participation”.

    1. To me, active participation is telling the government what to do and or being part of what it does.

      Obescience is the scriptural concept we’re dealing with here. It is subjection.

      It is difficult to think of anything but democracy while living in contemporary American culture, but it might be necessary here. Governments rule their people, regardless of what anyone might think democracy is. Try dealing with a police officer or customs agent with the idea that he or she is a public servant and actually working for you. (The recent TSA pull down your pants so we can see what you’ve got airport screening comes to mind, too.)

      Nah, if we were to have any part in government, Jesus would have showed us by establishing an earthly kingdom. He did not – quite contrarily he was in total subjection to their authority…

  6. Thanks, Gord Welch, for linking to my site above.

    Regarding Bin Laden’s death, here are two of the questions I posted Sunday night at 10:10 (Pacific) — “Can we muster any grief at the thought of what Osama Bin Laden likely learned after his death? Are we so unable to connect the dots between his death and Christ’s?” (Source: Dead: Osama Bin Laden)

    Then yesterday morning at 11:29 I asked in a follow-up post: “Let me put it to you another way: A man goes to hell and those with the Redeemer-given ‘ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) rejoice?” (Source: Death to Osama Bin Laden!)

  7. Essentially I think the passage teaches, that as long as a government exists (any government) it is entitled to demand, adherence to its laws, unless they conflict with the laws of God (Acts 5). It seems to me that the phrase “governing authorities” could be any type of authority, either paternal, magisterial,or ecclesiastical authority. However in this case it is specifically “civil” authority. It seems to me that Paul is telling the Romans that God has providentially chosen Nero to rule over them and had given him all the appropriate proper civil authority. The divine establishment of the ruler is in view here. The fact that Nero was a tyrant who enjoyed the slaying of Christians for his enjoyment didn’t disqualify him as a ruler worthy of subjection. In fact any governement established by God, (which all of them are) are called, “ministers” of God. So Governement is not the opponent of God, (even if they hate Him)instead they are God’s chosen instrument, therefore subjection is due. Failure to submit to the governing authority (God’s Ministers), is a failure to submit to God. This also is why Christians shouldn’t participate in a quiet form of pacifism. The specific command to pay taxes intimates active participation in the “civil” government, which is where the subjection is due. We may could make other arguments for different directions to direct our submission, (eg. husbands/wives, slaves/masters) but we have to do that from other texts. In this case, the civil authority is in view in my opinion.

    Calvin said, “There are indeed always some tumultuous spirits who believe that the kingdom of Christ cannot be sufficiently elevated, unless all earthly powers be abolished, and that they cannot enjoy the liberty given by him, except they shake off every yoke of human subjection” (Commentary on Romans 13:1).

    1. If you are saying that we should respect and obey all authority – I agree! But I disagree that you need other arguments…. there is only one argument… natural law.

      The only hitch to the whole worldly system of governing is that God is the supreme authority and he’s got some different ideas from what governments have in mind.

      Ah, Presbyterians (I used to be one – a minister in training no less and the son of a preacher) love their Calvin! It’s almost like the book of Mormon or Ellen White for the Adventists. If the quote you have chosen is for the reason I believe it is, yes, Calvin was against the Anabaptists, and he put many to death. Yes, he killed defenseless, bible-believing, harmless children of God because they did not conform to his beliefs. But his writing indicates that he had an inaccurate view of the Anabaptist movement. For Anabaptists have never sought to abolish anything earthly, except sin in their own lives. We cannot tell others how to live their life – only seek to ask questions and point out the truth when appropriate. Hopefully I haven’t stepped too hard here – I realize this is not my space.

  8. Cool, thanks for linking to my blog! Just don’t burn me at the stake (even though I’m not exactly 100% Anabapist–I’ve just been influenced by Anabaptist theology).

    1. You’re welcome, Travis. And fear not–I intend to maintain a clean legal record. We don’t kill heretics anymore, some of us just blog about them 😉 But our confessions have been duly reformed according to the Word of God to prevent further grounds of persecution. The seeds of religious liberty were not only “fought” for by Anabaptists, they were also contained in the Reformed confessions–our process just took longer because it wasn’t as radical as theirs. Enjoy the bump in your site stats. But if it’s coming from me, it’s probably a miniscule bump.

      1. It seems you might want to spend more time learning about the Anabaptists. Anabaptists did not fight for any religious liberty, in quotes or not. And the Reformed have not just taken longer, they don’t believe the same things – even now. The basic message was not contained in Reformed Confessions, including the great Westminster.

        And if you’re going to call Anabaptist heretics, it gives me pause to wonder about your sincerity in any honest debate.

  9. Didn’t you see the quotes around the word fought? It was a play on words. The “heretics” remark was tongue in cheek. Did you not notice Travis’ request to not burn him at the stake? We were engaging in a little light-hearted humor, which is killed when one has to explain the jokes.

    And I guess I’ll get to work digging up what I meant by my remarks about the Reformed confessions and religious liberty.

  10. According to your rubric I’m an Anabaptist handwringer. I confess a certain wry smile at your comment about ‘pervasive’ Anabaptist influence. In my experience Anabaptists have consistently found ourselves is a role of minority dissent to someone elses establishment. That’s especially the case here in the UK where there are, to my knowledge, less than 100 Mennonites in the entire country. I have already indulged my Anabaptist handwringing tendencies elsewhere ( so I will keep this brief. Osama Bin Laden was, as you say. a mass murderer. In the system of justice which you and I enjoy perpetrators of such crimes enjoy a judicial process before being sentenced. In this case the U.S.A. set itself up as prosecution, judge and executioner. Rightly in my view the Second World War saw similar mass murderers brought to trial at Nuremburg. Bin Laden could have been taken alive and brought to a similar tribunal. A planned assassination makes a mockery of international law.

    At the end of all of this do we really want to live in a world where summary execution is the norm whenever one party or another feels a deep enough sense of grievance? Here in Britain we are only just emerging form the shadow of murderous sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland. On both sides atrocities were justified with an iron-clad conviction about the justice of the cause. Last week we needed justice but we got revenge instead. It took a bunch of ‘Anabaptist handwringers’ to point out the difference.

    1. Thanks for providing exhibit A, Phil 🙂

      You are, of course, correct that Anabaptism is generally about being a dissent against the establishment–NOTHING COULD BE MORE AMERICAN! But to get a better idea of where folks like myself come off generalizing about Anabaptist influences, please follow the link in my statement regarding “the influence of Anabaptism” to an American Spectator Magazine article which does a pretty good job of painting a picture of Anabaptist influences in American Christianity.

      I won’t indulge in the political tit-for-tat on bin Laden’s death, this is a theological blog, but, again, thanks for confirming my initial point about Anabaptist “pacifist” hand-wringing.

  11. Gord,
    Just a couple of things…first you said, “Nah, if we were to have any part in government, Jesus would have showed us by establishing an earthly kingdom. He did not – quite contrarily he was in total subjection to their authority…” That’s an argument from silence. That’s like saying if Jesus wanted us to hold to the Trinity, he would have used the word “Trinity.” You can allow the whole of scripture to determine a right course of action or way of thinking. What about Cornelius…was he to resign his commission? Where is the imperative to resign his participation in the govt?
    Two- I understand you believe Calvin to have been the King of Geneva…thus you hold him responsible for Servetus or others deaths…I would love to engage in an argument about Servetus, which is often attributed to Calvin alone, and not his town council, but the type of argument you use against Calvin is simply Ad Hominem, and out of bounds. It is known as a fallacy of argumentation. Deal with the topic or not. As a wise man said once…”DO or Do not, there is no try.”

    1. One: If the life and death of Jesus is silence, then I shall be content with his silence. For in the face of death he could have chosen to call on all the power of the universe to destroy those who were against him – and yet he did nothing. If the decision of God to do nothing is an argument from silence, then I’ll take the silence.

      I answered the Cornelius question in an above post.

      As for the whole of scripture…. I wholeheartedly agree. We began with God in charge; then the people wanted to be in charge- that ended poorly; then the people wanted one of them to be in charge – that ended poorly; so they ended up with foreign rule, all because they rejected God’s rule. So even without the example of Jesus I would come to the same conclusion. God does not desire that his people form governments and rule over each other.

      Two: pope, perhaps, not king – and so far as I am aware, Servetus was not an Anabaptist, and disagreed with almost all their beliefs. I don’t hold him responsible, but understand that his terminology for the Anabaptist precluded those in power from behaving differently.

      A closing thought: I wonder how an old little green fictitious movie character is determined to be a wise man.

  12. Gord,
    First of all, you caught my movie reference- that’s funny. But the life of Jesus is a nice argument to try to make. But despite the appeal to his life, it doesn’t wash. He also didn’t join a baseball team, so therefore all 11 year old boys should abstain from baseball according to your logic. He also didn’t teach algebra, so all Christian Algebra teachers are out of accord if they are trying to follow Jesus life as their example. That’s why the argument from silence doesn’t work. As far as Calvin being the Pope of Geneva, not really. Too many examples of him having to submit to the town council. He didn’t write the laws, he wasn’t a citizen. He couldn’t even get weekly communion.

    1. I didn’t try to make the argument – I did it! And whether it washes from your perspective or not, it stands. Of course, you have the prerogative to accept it or not. To me, Jesus had the opportunity to save himself from death and he made the choice not to. That silence speaks to me and those who let it.

      And while Jesus made no statements about baseball, the people of God would infer from the whole of scripture certain basic principles about which we can base a decision on whether or not to join a baseball team. To this end we ask certain questions of anything. For example: What sort of things will be required of me to do when I play baseball? With whom will I be associating with? What is the purpose of the activity? Will this activity further the work of God? And if all these types of questions “wash”, then: Am I called to participate?

      Jesus, and indeed the whole Bible are silent on a whole range of topics about which we can still determine God’s will. These are some of them:

      – Is abortion right?
      – Are sugar and white flour right to eat?
      – Should I drive an automobile?
      – What music is appropriate for the child of god?
      – What should the people of god wear?
      – Should the people of god say the pledge of allegiance?

      Anyway, you get the idea, there are lots of specific questions about which the answers are very difficult and require lots of committee study for those in the reformed family, and yet are very easy to answer for the Anabaptist. In my experience, those in the reformed family look at each issue independently and analyze it on its own merits, whereas the Anabaptist look at a few core issues and have ready answers from there on. This is the reason why reformed don’t support unfettered abortion, but yet support war. One is murder, the other is defense. For the Anabaptist, both are equally murder.

      So to specifically answer the baseball question. It is an organized idle activity with no godly purpose. A game of pickup would be acceptable, but an organized league with teams would not. So eleven year old boys can play baseball, they just shouldn’t make it a pastime nor dream of the big leagues – if they love god and want to follow him. Those of the world can do whatever they want!

      Algebra, if used for a godly purpose is fine. It is the principles, not the specific issues that are at stake. But that is all a separate issue…. because Jesus dealt with the specific issue of whether or not to save his own life. Of whether or not to start an earthly kingdom. You might remember that it was one of the things that satan thought might trip him up… bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world….? Of course, Jesus focused on the worship part of that, but there is no reason to believe that Jesus could not have raised up an army of followers if he had wanted to. Especially given the fighting history of the Israelites and the Jews. But then that history is so farcical that it’s hardly worth mentioning. One only has to look at the book of Judges to see the comedy of the Israelites and their fighting desires. No, war and fighting has never been part of the desire of God for his people.

      The main point in that we are to focus on what is good and godly and on things the Jesus taught us are important. Of course Jesus ate and drank, and seemingly for social reasons, but those social reasons were always contiguous with his purpose to further the kingdom of god and not apart. If we are to claim to follow Jesus we must do the same. Does my teaching of algebra further the work of god? If it does, then good – but if it does not, then I had better find something else to do.

      As for Calvin, we all know that political power waxes and wanes with every episode and there is a difference between the secular political and the religious political. All is politics, however. What is important is that a label of heretic in that day was as good as a death sentence. And Calvin knew that fully when he applied it to his enemies the Anabaptists.

      1. “In my experience, those in the reformed family look at each issue independently and analyze it on its own merits, whereas the Anabaptist look at a few core issues and have ready answers from there on.”

        A fascinating admission. A pat, one-size-fits-all grid for every question in life. Sure puts the “simple” in “Simple Christian,” alright. I won’t cultivate carpal tunnel syndrome by trying to convince you to take issues on their own merits, however.

  13. Okay, I guess we’re done then. Good luck…

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