Archive for November, 2008

Holy War?

Posted: November 12, 2008 in Archaeology, Politics

This is a selection from a book I am writing called Wandering and Conquest: Studies in the New Courville Perspective, Vol. 1, 2009.


Much attention has been drawn to the harshness of the Israelite Conquest.  Here we have Israelites killing women and children who had been taken as captives.  Is this ever right?  Does not this harshness and cruelty reflect upon the religion of Israel, upon the God of Israel?

We cannot mitigate the harshness of Israelite warfare by saying it was only restricted to the land of Canaan.  That is true enough, but critics want to know why it was permitted even in the land of Canaan.  Isn’t the killing of captives, especially of women and children, always wrong?  Surely, we would not find such practices acceptable today.  So has morality changed between the time of Moses and our own time?

When this issue of the harshness of the Conquest is brought up, the question of moral equivalency must also be discussed.  Those who point to the cruelty of God, or of the Israelites, are essentially saying that all actions are equivalent on the moral plane.  This is a view that needs to be justified not merely assumed.

The harshness of holy war during the Conquest cannot be explained without taking into account the redemptive-historical nature of Israel.  Israel was a unique nation, one that cannot be placed on an equivalent plane with the nations of the world.  Israel was a priestly nation.  In Christian theology, it had as its primary purpose the foreshadowing of the sacrificial and messianic work of Christ, and was therefore required to be a holy nation, free from the blemish of idolatry.  Harsh punishment and cruel warfare were the means of preserving the holiness of Israel vis-à-vis the syncretism and commonality of idolatry.

No other nation, either in the ancient world or today, can claim to be a priestly nation, to have a unique covenant with God after the manner of the Mosaic covenant.  Holy warfare is therefore a thing of the past (as are imprecatory psalms, if left unspiritualized).  The practice of holy warfare was therefore allowable only at one time and for one nation, and that nation is now gone forever (as a unique covenantal nation).  During the Conquest, Israel was acting as God’s agent of holiness, and Israel’s killing of its foes was no harsher than God’s similar punishment of sinners during the Flood, at the time of the plagues upon Egypt, and so on.

Perhaps it seems harsher because there was a human agent involved.  That tends to be unsettling, for would this not provide a rationale for others to seek to enforce God’s will upon others by violence?  Would it not be a recipe for cruelty in war?

Of course, when it comes to discussing fallen man, and his capability for cruelty and oppression, such questions are not silly, even if one does not go to Hobbesian extremes in describing the fallen state.  Nevertheless, the redemptive-historical nature of Israel prevents any deduction from Israel’s mode of holy warfare to any modern model of absolute warfare (including jihad).  It is precisely because man is a sinner that holy war was temporary and circumscribed.  Without God’s immediate guidance, the practice of holy war would be abused by fallen man.  It would start out as a noble enterprise, no doubt, but because of man’s fallen state, it would quickly be perverted into a means of man’s oppression of man.

For this reason there can no longer be any justification for harshness in warfare.  Any state, any religion, or any cause that claims holy war as a proper method of fighting, or of propagating a message, is claiming a unique moral status.  For Christians, however, such unique moral status was meant only for ancient Israel, and for no other nation, whether in the ancient world or in our own world of today.

Israel’s laws and forms of warfare cannot be explained in terms of setting up Israel as an ideal nation that all nations past and present must emulate, as if a modern polity could adopt Israel’s covenant and its laws, and thereby share in Israel’s unique moral status.  As soon as one attempts to do this one is immediately confronted by the problem of holy war.  Nevertheless, it is only by recognizing Israel’s unique redemptive-historical role that holy warfare can be fairly explained and also seen as forever discontinued.


John Wilkes Booth Wannabe

Posted: November 9, 2008 in Constitution, Lincoln

Here’s the kind of stuff that passes for Christian commentary in some quarters.  On Greenbaggins blog I accused Bret of treason because he desires the overthrow of the government.  I compared him to John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln.  Bret responded here in relevant part:

“As it pertains to Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth I will say but two things,
1.) Those who live by the sword die by the sword.
2.) Lincoln sowed the wind and so he reaped the whirlwind.”

Here is my response at Greenbaggins:

“That’s really all that one needs to know about Bret and his political philosophy. I’m sure most theonomists would be embarrassed by this sort of psycho-pathic trash talk, especially Greg Bahnsen.

One of course must always distinguish between the American government per se, and the officials who run it, whether wisely or no. And one must not even speak evil of the officials who run it, though criticism of their policies is always a propos.

Seems to me neo-confederates and extreme theonomists have a Jesuitical, assassination-oriented view of governmental change.”


I could say more, but it seems hardly worth it.  Anyone interested in a more Christian political philosophy should read the papers below under the category “Politics & History.”

Rush and Liberal Media Rage

Posted: November 8, 2008 in Politics
One of the reasons I like Rush Limbaugh so much is that he is very adept at pointing up liberal media hypocrisy.   In the transcript below, he is responding to the media claim that Obama’s win will spark “right-wing rage”.  Notice especially Hillary Clinton’s words:

RUSH: I want to go back to the first hour, not going to play the sound bites, but CNN did a whole story last night on right-wing rage aimed at me for my criticism of Emanuel as choice.  There was no rage in the sound bite they played, but this is what the left does.  Any dissent is called hate, is called rage.  This is how they attempt to discredit it.  But let’s remember Mrs. Clinton.  A couple years ago she got all mad and upset because she was ripping Bush every day and people were saying it sounded a little bit unseemly, and this was her reaction.
HILLARY:  (screeching) I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic, and we should stand up and say, “WE ARE AMERICANS AND WE HAVE A RIGHT TO DEBATE AND DISAGREE WITH ANY ADMINISTRATION!”

RUSH:  Okay.  So the Hillary definition of patriotism is standing up and screeching and shouting your disagreement with the administration.  I think I’m a new patriot here, according to Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, I am exhibiting the new patriotism that they have defined.  



Posted: November 5, 2008 in Politics

Peter Ferrara sums up my own views of this year’s presidential election.  You can read his essay at the American Spectator:

Bush has definitely been a poor communicator, and McCain has too often been a turncoat on issues important to conservatives.    I’m especially wondering what libertarians are thinking right now.  They’ve bashed Bush and the Republicans for eight years now, and what have they gotten for their efforts?  A president who is sevenfold times the child of statism than Bush ever was.  Great job libertarians.