Archives For grace

The contents of Sun-Tzu’s, The Art of War and The Bible are unrelated.  They are, by any quick comparison, worlds apart. The Art of War is a masterpiece in military organisation and strategy. Tzu is a sage, giving the wealth of a sage’s advice to all who would follow his counsel closely.

The Bible is a collection of books, filled with multiple genres, following centuries of the same consistent theme: Yahweh’s faithfulness to His people and His war against the human made gods and idols of the Ancient Near East.

Written by multiple authors the witness of the Biblical authors often jars us because of its contrasts between God’s faithfulness and humanity’s infidelity; an unfaithfulness that includes humanity turning on itself, as much as it turns against the faithfulness of God. Through poetry, proverbial wisdom, historiography; prophecy, a litany of apocalyptic fulfilment and predictions, historical letters and genealogies, the Bible is the unique testimony of God’s decisive interaction with humanity.

Where these testimonies differ:

The Art of War is a manual and an impersonal memoir. In it the wisdom and experience of Chinese Army veteran, Sun-Tzu is encapsulated in a list of haiku like principles. Whereas The Bible, from start to finish moves from point to point, through very human voices, who testify to this unique encounter with the revelation of God. What we hear is God fighting for us, embracing us, raising and continuing to raise humanity, through the promise and fulfilment of His Covenant (Treaty with humanity). What we see is God raising men and women up out of sin and its grip on humanity, as sin hurtles humanity like a projectile towards inhumanity and total self-annihilation.

Where these testimonies share common ground:

What The Art of War and parts of The Bible share in common is the way in which truth and experience is communicated through metaphor, simile and poetic syntax.

TAoW:

‘A rushing torrent/carries boulders/on its flood; such is the energy/of its momentum’ [i] (Sun-Tzu, The Art of War)

The Bible:

‘Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 19:24, ESV)

Truth and experience is camouflaged in metaphor so as to make an impact that will be easily memorised, if not understood right away.

The relationship between The Art of War and The Bible is established in its use of poetic language to recall history and communicate truths, through narrative and poetic prose.

If there is a commonality of literary technique, is there be any relevance between the two? Can The Art of War help us better understand The Bible?

My answer is yes.

Though, it’s cultural setting, ethnicity, context, authorship, and in most areas its contents are worlds apart, sections of The Art of War lights up our perspective of ancient society, politics and warfare.

Much like Machiavelli’s, The Prince, The Art of War gives us insight into areas of human behaviour, organisation, rule and movement. These include leadership, social organisation, paradox ( + dialectic)[ii], relationships, management, hierarchy, strategy and, in a few specific places, the value of human life.

For example:

‘[Force] March ten miles for some gain/and two in three men will arrive’[iii] (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

Commonality between the Bible and The Art of War can be found. Much of the first five books of the Bible, (the Pentateuch; Torah) discuss the state of the human race, God’s creation, liberation, government and ordering of humanity, centred within and viewed through the lens of His people.

God’s ordering, this governing, His leadership through a close friendship with Moses, is exemplified in the post-Exodus wilderness dwelling Book of Numbers.

Here Yahweh’s request under the Covenant He established with Israel is His way of bringing the Hebrews FULLY out of Egypt. The Hebrews had not completely left subservience to Egypt and its gods behind. As evidenced by the Golden Calf, one coup attempt, a number of formal protests and general disgruntlement about how much better things were under Egyptian rule. In other words, how much better things were under the rule of Egypt’s hybrid animal-human gods. Psychologically & culturally, God’s liberation of the Hebrews was as much reformation of the heart as it was God’s revolution and His emancipation of an oppressed people.

Yahweh’s leadership is brought to trial. The just God is thrown unjust criticism and all manifestations of his grace through the miraculous provision and care given towards His people are forgotten.

The confrontation causes conflict. Yahweh seeks to take the focus of the people off the creature and put it onto the Creator; and in doing so God shows just how far He has to go in order to bring His people completely out of Egypt. This is to teach them that they are no longer Egyptians, but are His, living under His grace, guidance, blessing, leadership; fatherhood. All this things are given in order to bring about the fulfilment of prophecy. The promise of the Covenant, and the transforming determination of God, sees the Hebrew slaves become the nation of Israel. The gods humans made are directly challenged by the God who made humans.

In a sense, even though the victory is won, Yahweh is still fighting against the gods of the Ancient Near East. He is still fight for those He made in His image. Yahweh, the One who is free, putting Himself between us and the house of slavery, despite our flirtation with the worship of nature that characterises all gods and idols man and woman makes in their own image.

Yahweh is the model of a perfect General (Exodus 15). He avoids Sun-Tzu’s list of pitfalls for a General, whilst His people (and even Moses from time to time) falls right into them:

        1. Recklessness – leading to destruction
        2. Cowardice – leading to capture
        3. Hot temper (manipulated or triggered into reacting poorly) – prone to provocation
        4. Delicacy to honour (concern for reputation; perfectionism) – tending to shame
        5. Concern for his men (easily swayed/influenced, people pleasing; concerned about offending them) – leading to trouble.

The book of Numbers teaches us that God perfectly hears us, has perfect self-control, can be provoked to anger, but is patient, quick to restraint and shows mercy by way of warnings and provision.

The Gospel of Mark testifies to the healings and deliverance so engrained in the fabric of Jesus Christ’s ministry, up to the point where He reaches for the Leper, stills the wind and waves, is feared and mocked by demons, joyfully dignifies the woman with uterine bleeding and despite the mockery of a crowd of mourners, in the presence of her parents, resurrects a 12 year old girl.

God places Himself between us and our fears, between us and our sin, all with the intention of not allowing His people to advance into the jaws of their enemies, both without and within.

Paul understood this, writing:

‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Paul, Galatians 2:20, ESV)

The Bible and The Art of War teach us to be aware of the pitfalls of human leadership and the arrogance of power. Only God is the perfect General. We actively seek out failure, when we fail to acknowledge and follow Him in all our ways.

The Art of War:

‘These five perils to leadership demand the most careful attention’ Sun-Tzu, The Art of War.

The Bible:

 “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? – Jesus Christ, Luke 6:39

 


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Sun-Tzu, circa 500 BC. The Art of War: Potential Energy Penguin Ed. 2008 (p.26)

[ii] For example: ‘Orderly disorder is based on careful division; courageous fear on potential energy; strong weakness on troop dispositions’.

[iii] Ibid, pp.40-41

Artwork: Rembrandt

©Rod Lampard, 2019

The LGBT community’s grievances and the reason for their sensitivity regarding the Israel Folau controversy are understandable.

A non-biblical version of sin has been misused over the years to beat people down, not bring them the to faith and repentance. (See Psychiatrist, Karl Menninger’s ‘Whatever became of Sin?’, 1976)

That historical misuse, however, doesn’t justify the unjust writhing and screaming being thrown towards Folau.

None of this justifies dehumanizing a man and taking away his bread and butter.

None of this justifies any corporation such as Qantas, bullying, via economic sanctions, companies they do business with, such as Rugby Australia.

As far as Qantas goes, their double standard is more than a little bit strange.

Alan Jones is right.

“Isn’t Qantas in partnership with a national airline whose government imposes laws infinitely more damaging to homosexuals than Israel’s utterance of his biblical beliefs?”

As I noted a few days back, Folau quoting from the Bible on his own personal Instagram page, is between him, Instagram and those who follow his social media account. It doesn’t involve the R.A, the L.G.B.T lobby or even Qantas.

This event proves the truth of the Galatians quote Israel posted. The biblical doctrine of sin, as a rejection of grace, a rejection of relationship, a rejection of both God and neighbour, is more relevant than ever. Sin divides, destroys and consumes those who entertain it.

The equality of the Biblical doctrine of sin is that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and yet, because of God’s decision to save humanity, in and through Jesus Christ, redemption from that sin is given and found (Romans 3:23). This is the crux of the Easter message heard around the world on Good Friday, Black Saturday and Resurrection Sunday.

As Jean Bethke Elshtain once said, ‘when we start to regard ourselves in our own light, our light dims’.[1]

Michael Horton echoed the same sentiment in his book, ‘Christless Christianity’,

“Coming to God as consumers saved by following the instructions on the product label rather than as sinners saved by grace is not only the essence of human sin, it does not even deliver on its own promises of liberation. Instead it drives us deeper into ourselves […] Keeping us from ever being disrupted by someone greater than ourselves or by something more wonderful than our own half-hearted achievements’[2]
‘It is the false prophets who “dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious” (Jer.18:11). It is not compassion for the people or zeal for God’s house but their own thirst for popularity that renders the false prophets constitutionally incapable of telling the truth about the crisis. Enclosed in our narrow world of personal spin, we are never introduced to the real world created by God’s Word […] Both sin and redemption are trivialized when we write the script.’[3]

This speaks to the left, the right, the up and the down.

Hence, the call to faith, obedience and prayer; the call to repentance; the call to transformation and the call to embrace God’s costly grace that embraces us in, through and with Jesus Christ.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather that the sinner should turn from his and her way and live (Ezekiel 18:23)[4].

We hear the Old Testament prophets reminding us that the world must not fall into ignorance and complacency. The pain and suffering of history is broadcasting warnings into the present; warnings about the ensuing calamity caused by ideological crusades that have enslaved men and women, under the promise of establishing ‘God’s Kingdom without God in it’[5].

Of all the current commentary surrounding Israel Folau, including my own, Alan Jones wins the final word:

“If Israel Folau is not free to state his religious views, let alone Christian views, then we are all in trouble. It would be helpful if people analyzed what he said before condemning him to rugby oblivion.”

References:

[1]  Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’  (pp.11, 66 & 62)

[2] Horton, M. 2008 Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books Baker Book Publishing (p.246)

[3] Ibid, p.242

[4] Ambrose of Milan, ‘On Repentance’

[5] Johnny Cash & U2, The Wanderer “they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it”.

(Originally posted on The Caldron Pool, 18th April, 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

joshua-hanks-682729-unsplashWhen you come into a marriage with poverty and a broken heritage:

How do you move from the economic class of renter to “Home Owner”, without selling your own soul, selling out your own goals or killing that marriage?

When your support pillars are war ruins, broken hearts, lives and relationships:

How do you bring a shattered past to support the present?

When no gifts are left to you:

How do you say thank you for good gifts when they come?

When a parent abdicates responsibility, antagonizes the wounds, and  then a sibling speaks in half-truths, and falsely accuses, in order to hide the embarrassment of wrong doing:

How do you forgive?

How do you defend?

When the hand-downs  and opinions are always accusations, cruel measurements, and covert put downs:

How do you understand yourself and your own worth?

How do you breathe?

When the hands that were designated to be helpers don’t help:

How do you ask for help?

When people are moulded by manipulation and won by charm and false appearances:

How do you bless and not fall to the temptation to impress?

When you forgive and are not forgiven:

How do you engage or disengage properly when others refuse to do the same?

Perhaps a good place to begin is here:

                1. Talk with the Lord, humbly.
                2. Learn carefully & honestly.
                3. Care carefully & courageously.
                4. Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness.
                5. Be brave; Hold on to God, and never let go. 

Don’t let that shattered heritage take root. Don’t bring the echoes of resentment into your marriage. Reject the cycle of abuse. Reuse the useful things you have. I.e.: take stock, then do what you can with what you’ve got.

Aim to bless rather than impress[i].

Talk with the Lord. He is a working God, active caring and in pursuit of the broken.

Listen carefully because the ‘insight into divine matters is like a seed that needs to grow into a mature plant…Mature knowledge does not come quickly or easy…it takes time to penetrate profound matters and make them our own’[ii]

As Pinnock states,

Trust and ‘humility must be the order of the day’[iii]

Learn carefully because ‘God’s leading is experienced as His Spirit fosters movement towards the truth, despite our mistakes and errors…we must be both hopeful and sober about the possibilities’[iv]

Care carefully because you are carefully cared for far beyond the extreme void, that makes you torn and breathless. Look at the blessings that do exist and count them, no matter how small, each one has significance.

There is no emptiness to His care. Give him permission to move you from an intensive care unit to a tender care one.

Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness; losing in order to win[v], where the world measures success by appearance. Your success is measured by God in the victory and bravery of His Son, who is and was and is to come. Maintain boundaries and remember that forgiveness does not mean returning to a place of ignorance.

Be brave because beauty and light is found beyond the seemingly unbreakable walls of fear and dark loathing.

Weeping may tarry for the night,  but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

Extreme anxiety has no future home in a broken heart[vi] touched by God. For the humble and broken are closer to the heart of God than they realise (Psalm 34:18).


References:
.
[i] Mt.5:38, ESV “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
.
[ii] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press p.219
.
[iii] Ibid, p.219
.
[iv] Ibid, p.219
.
[v] Matthew 16:25, ESV
.
[vi] Matthew 6:25, ESV
.
.Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash
.
©Rod Lampard, 2014

neonbrand-463099-unsplashGrace shows humanity God’s commitment to humanity. This commitment isn’t the result of our empty attempts to placate a bored King who has everything. God’s commitment to us has nothing to do with any human sycophantic transaction. It is a totally aware, pure, turning towards creation by its Creator.

God’s commitment picks humanity up from its failure to fulfill its own commitment towards Himself. Even when rejected, God’s commitment remains unchanged. It cannot be undone. The follow through of grace means that human commitment is fulfilled. God has done it. What is left is the human response to the completed work.

That human commitment fulfilled by God necessitates a turning of the creature back towards the Creator. Hearts and minds are directed back to the memory of His act on our behalf. Humanity is graciously shown the way and firmly commanded to follow.

For Karl Barth, ‘all that [then] remains for me to do is to let my eyes rest on Him, which really means to let my eyes follow Him. This following is my faith. But the great[er] work of faith has already been done by the One whom I follow […] To abide in; to trust in God (Ps.91:1) to believe is to stand in in the communion of saints; who has received, receives and will receive the forgiveness of sins, who hastens towards the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life […] His faith is the victory which has overcome the world.  But that it is this victory does not rest with [the believer], but solely with Him in whom he [may] believe.’ [i]

Human commitment is empowered by God’s grace to be lived out. That humanity is empowered  towards commitment means that whilst God’s act of grace is immutably superimposed, it is not forcefully imposed. We are simply shown the creation and opening of a door where there was none before. God has an exit plan. He spells it out with the letters e.n.l.i.s.t. This is the response to the call of grace: ‘grateful obedience’ (Barth, 2/1 p.229). The commitment of the ‘free man to the free God.’ (Barth, 2/2 p.561) is empowered by God’s revolution; a revolution no man or woman can lie about to control or trump.

This is confronted by God’s act and claim on humanity, to humanity, for humanity vs. humanity’s self-justification and rejection in its counter-claims about God.

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men and women by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV)

No other can lay claim to being this truth; fact; Christ event: God’s revealing of Himself in Jesus Christ. No other can lay claim to being the source of goodness; ethics, right and wrong. No other can claim to be the sole hope and promise of our future. Come Nero, hashtag riot, Hillary, Trump, unjust law, illness, closet-oppressive utopian idea, rainbow ideology or Hitler,

“The subject of theological ethics is not the Word of God as it is claimed by humanity, but the Word of God as it claims humanity. It is not man as he is going to make something of the Word of God, but the Word of God as it is going to make something of man* […]The grace of God is always this: Jesus Christ. It is from what God has done for us that we must learn to read what God wants with us and of us. We must seek the command of God only where it has itself torn off the veil of all human opinions and theories about the will of God**” [ii]

This is the chief reason for why we Christians call the Gospel, Good News. God lives and He speaks!

‘A Christian is one who knows that God has accepted him in Jesus Christ, that a decision has been made concerning him in Jesus Christ as the eternal Word of God, and that he has been called into covenant with Him by Jesus Christ as the Word of God spoken in time.’ [iii]

Summed up by Barth, in true Barth fashion:

‘We hear the Gospel as we obey it. For Jesus Christ is the basis in which we may believe in God, the Word in which dwell the light and force to move us to this event. He Himself is the Gospel. He himself is the resolve and the execution of the essential will in which God willed to give Himself to us. The grace of God, of the God in whom we may believe, is this. In Jesus Christ the eternal Word became flesh. Without ceasing to be who He is in Himself, God became as one of us.’ [iv]

As Karl Barth repeatedly remarks, God wills to be with us & wills that we should not be without Him:

‘Death could not hold Him [Jesus Christ], & therefore it cannot hold us. In the midst of death we have in Him no future but that of resurrection and eternal life. The grace of God decides and has already decided concerning our human existence. What then does it mean to be human now that this decision has been reached by the grace of God? It means to be one who stands and walks and lives and dies within the fact that God is gracious to us, that He has made us His own.(Gal. 2:19)’ [v]

The human response to the question of God’s grace, is ‘our answer to this Word. It is a free action bound by commitment’ (Barth, 2/2:546 paraphrased).

In other words, life with God, begins with, God with us.

Jesus Christ is the Gospel (Barth). He is the author, recipient and standard of both the Shema Yisrael and Lord’s Prayer:

“Hear O, Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy, 6:4-5, ESV)

 


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1942 The Basis of the Divine Claim, CD 2/2 Hendrickson Publishers (p.559)

[ii] Ibid, p.546* & pp.560 & 559**

[iii] Ibid, p.547

[iv] Ibid, pp.557 & 558

[v] Ibid, pp. 558-559

[the words wrapped in parenthesis are my own]

Originally published 7th November 2016.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Dismantling Babel…

September 5, 2018 — 2 Comments

…in light of the Bible.

Barth Credo God makes his way to us

 


References:

Image: RL2013; tagged “Stormy Sunset”

Quote: Cited by Sawyer, M. James (Kindle Ed. 2012). Neoorthodoxy: an Introductory Survey

Originally published 14th Nov. 2013

Rembrandt_1633 Christ in the storm on the sea of GalileeAlthough I’ve browsed through ‘City of God’ and ‘On Christian Doctrine’, my main interaction with Augustine’s work centres on his ‘Confessions’.  (A phenomenal read if you ever get the chance to dig into it.)

I like many of the things Augustine says and wrestle with some of his more introspective reflections.

One of those is his statement:

‘The appearance of what we do is often different from the intention with which we do it, and the circumstances at the time may not be clear’[i]

Augustine seems to be saying that what we intend is not always what we do. Circumstances pending, what we do is sometimes only for the sake of what we want others to see and therefore say about us.

Avarice overrides responsible action as pride corrupts intention. Thus leading us onto a path where we turn ‘the loss of confessing self in order to be for others, into an all consuming self, an expressivist exhibition’[ii]

The divide between appearances and intentions, then, forms the basis of his point. This existential division creates an ethical-theological tension perpetuated by the sometimes fog of circumstances.

This is identified by Jean Bethke Elshtain in ‘Augustine and the limits of politics’:

 ‘Augustine lays the miseries of human life at the doorstep of sin, our division (within selves and between self and others), our enthrallment to cupiditas[iii] and our all-too-frequent abandonment of caritas[iv]. We are, in other words, ignorant but it is ignorance of a particular kind, not innocent naiveté but prideful cognitive amputation.[v]

What Elshtain means by ‘prideful cognitive amputation’ is ‘philosophical solipsism’ (extreme subjective idealism)[vi]; thoughtlessness (not to be confused with mindlessness), but understood as ‘the banality of evil.(Hannah Arendt’s controversial assessment of Adolf Eichmann) [vii]

Elshtain, a feminist, presents her analysis of Augustine as an attempt at rescue. Saving Augustine from the ritualistic frown passed on to our forebears by the hubris and suspicion of post 60’s modernity.

For her, Augustine is relevant and worthy of a second look:

‘He confesses what he knows and what he does not know. He does know that the world isn’t boundlessly subjectivist; it does not revolve around the “me, myself and I”[viii]

Augustine himself thunders the point home:

‘I flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it so that you might bring healing to a soul that had sinned against you. I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner’[ix]

Elshtain brilliantly adds, ‘when we start to regard ourselves in our own light, our light dims’[x]

Reading this in the emerging light of advent we might be called back to Karl Barth’s assertion

‘To thank means to accept with confession,… to acknowledge the gift, the goodness and the kindness of the Giver’[xi]

God makes himself known in Jesus Christ, ‘the sign of all signs[xii]

In Augustine’s sigh we hear that the heart has ears. Before the beauty of Christmas this can only mean an awakening to an awareness of our own need for grace; an acknowledgement that we are carried, firmly, lovingly held above the abyss.

Confronted by such a grace we learn that God is God and we are not. Yet, by Divine decision; a fierce and free decree. In Jesus Christ, we are spoken to, spoken for and therefore not given up on.

In His example we see in part, the point of Christmas. That the ‘principle of charity requires nothing less than to make one’s best effort.’[xiii]

Jesus is Victor!


Source

[i] Augustine, St. Confessions Penguin Classics III/XIX 1961:67

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.6

[iii] Latin for desire, eagerness, enthusiasm; passion; lust; avarice; greed; ambition; partisanship (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[iv] Latin for charity, grace, dearness, high price; esteem, affection (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.37

[vi] Ibid, p.59

[vii] Ibid,

[viii] Ibid, p.5

[ix] Augustine, St. 1961 Confessions Penguin Classics V/X p.103

[x] Elshtain, ibid pp.11, 66 &62

[xi] Barth, K. 1940 The Limits of  the Knowledge of God C.D II/I Hendrickson Publishers p.198

[xii] Ibid, p.199

[xiii] Elshtain, ibid p.55

*I’ve borrowed the second part of the title to this blog post from Elshtain, who uses it on page xiii in her introduction.

Image: Rembrandt, 1633 ‘Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee’

Originally published 14th December 2014

The provocative quote of the week goes to, Charles Spurgeon: “Be a good hater“.

The statement, “be a good hater” is a challenge to resist evil (James[i]). To resist the morality of the tyrant or the ‘crowd which has no hands’ (Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth [ii])

In context it means: to abhor evil: to regard it with extreme repugnance. [In Latin, “abhor” is Odium: with hostility; “repugnance”: resist, be an adversary of evil.]

Our present age has an almost absolute fear of hate, yet most would agree that “let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good“, is an admirable thing. One clear example which proves this is, the often irrational fear of, and hatred thrown at Donald Trump.

When discussing hating evil, clinging to the good, Calvin prefers to use the term “turning away”, saying it ‘corresponds better with the opposite clause, where Paul bids us to exercise kindness’ (Commentary on Romans 12:9)

This is displayed in the actions of real social justice advocates [by which I don’t mean the average internet variety, Social Justice Warriors]. Real social justice advocates lay their claims against injustice on the very premise that an evil; an injustice; something to be abhorred; something repugnant has really taken place.

The problem arises when the basis for those claims are centred on the ever shifting sands of subjective relativism. Akin to the great violation in the garden, which sought to jettison God; removing the Creator from His rightful place, putting the creature at the centre of where, what and how that creature derives its definitions, and subsequent redefinitions, of what good and evil is.

Once fluidity of truth is proclaimed and accepted. Competing “truths” seek dominance. Humanity becomes the primary source and decider of what is good and evil.

From there lies can hide hatred, and power can be gained by it.

“whoever hates disguises himself with his lips, and harbours deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart though his hatred be covered with deception.”  (Proverbs, 26:24-26)

Subjectivism allows hatred to be hidden. For example, tolerance is given to the “truth” of Marxists, the “truth” of White Power Neo-Nazis, or the the “truth” of the Islamist. They force compliance to their ideas of good and evil, through fear, hatred and bloodshed all behind a veil of half-truths and manipulative propaganda. Each “truth” is to be respected, even though it hides a love for hatred, and as a result contains a hatred of truth.

The ultimate conclusion is a clash of competing untruths, all paraded as truth. The consequences being, that lies and falsehood come to rule, where truth and facts once did.

On the other hand, hate can be a positive. It becomes this when  it is accompanied by God’s Word on what good and evil is, along with honesty, humility, mercy and justice. Hate in this sense is restrained pathos or righteous anger. This is pathos seeking to end the cause of pathayma (suffering), which is held within the limits of both ethos and logos.

To hate evil is to cling to that which is good. Any hate which doesn’t cleave to that which is good, leads us towards that which is evil. Thus hating evil is not a sin because the act has a just cause. Hatred of evil is grounded in God’s, and not man’s, definition of what good and evil is. It is grounded in the precedent, criteria and command which comes from the ‘fatherly good-will’ of God (Karl Barth).

Morality drawn straight from the whims of the human heart is the subjective morality of the tyrant. Subjective morality becomes immorality the further it disconnects itself from the external Word and Spirit of God. This is because morality is held captive to the subjective truth of a tyrannical ungodly king, who acting on the mood of the moment, bans all unauthorised morality from his or her kingdom.

This unauthorised morality is anything other than the one he or she seeks to own, in order to grow their grip on power. One Biblical example of this is King Saul’s eventual hatred of David. Saul disconnects himself from God’s fatherly rule, and issues his own rule from his own subjective sense of good and evil.

It’s true, as C.S Lewis wrote, that ‘hatred obscures all distinctions.’[iii]  But what I think C.S Lewis is getting at with this, is any hatred that exists by itself and of itself, obscures all distinctions.

One way to understand this is to say that we need to be open to being challenged about the things we intensely dislike, otherwise we’re just lying to ourselves and others. Again we take Solomon’s words and apply them, ‘the one who conceals hatred has lying lips’ (Proverbs 10:18)

For the Christian, the ultimate grounding for hating evil, isn’t hate, it’s love. Love motivates the Christian to speak out and proclaim the salvation brought to both the oppressed and oppressor alike.

This means continuing to act on the gifts that God gives, such as good government, the ability to teach, discern and speak in a gracious way to a world hellbent on blurring distinctions, by worshiping and legitimising confusion about what truth is. One of the first steps towards achieving this is applying a better understanding about the distinction between hating evil and being a actual “hater”.

Hating hate, and not evil, is the great twisted and misleading double negative of our age.

Nowhere in the bible does God command His people to hate, hate. What we read is the imperative to abhor evil and cling to what is good.

This raises to initial questions:

1. How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate, and haters?

2. How can we keep the imperative to ‘hate what is evil’ from being misused and abused?

When we apply being a “good hater” to the Nazis, what is meant is that we hate the ideology of Nazism, not the German people who identified as Nazis. What is hated is the evil in the ideology that rules over the person and in the person, as if it were a lord without a Lord. The distinction between the German and the Nazi, if measured by Lewis’ criteria isn’t distorted.

Therefore, Charles Spurgeon’s ‘’be a good hater’’ is someone who acts in Christian love. Since love speaks both a “yes” and a “no”, to hate evil is to cling to the good; standing with, and in, God’s own definition and clear “no” to evil.

‘When you hate the man’s sins, you are not to hate him, but to love the sinner, even as Christ loved sinners and came to seek and save them. When you hate a man’s false doctrine, you are still to love the man and hate his doctrine even out of love to his soul, with an earnest desire that he may be reclaimed from his error and brought into the way of truth.’ (Spurgeon, 1858 Righteous Hatred)

It’s right then to conclude, that any Christian who falls in with the ‘untruth of the crowd’ when it comes to Donald Trump, may find themselves falling into hate that is absent of the rule of Christian love. In this context, the person fails to see that ‘the sinner hasn’t stopped being God’s creature’ (Karl Barth CD 3:2, p.31).

God’s grace finds the distinction between the love for the sinner and hatred of the sin. God moves in love towards the sinner with this particular order in mind. Barth again brings home the point, ‘if it does not spring from grace, it does not lead to grace.’ (ibid, p.36)

God’s grace governs the outcome and reorders, hate the sin, love the sinner[iv]. Love for the sinner becomes the primary. Hatred of sin, secondary[v].

Just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:

“‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’” (Life Together)

None of this means being slothful in our response to injustice. What it means is letting authentic Christian love, not the untruth of the crowd, govern that response. So it is that we return to the imperative, let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good.

In this sense, “be a good hater”.




References:

[i] James 4:7

[ii] Kierkegaard S. 1847 The Crowd is Untruth sourced from CCEL.org

[iii] C.S Lewis, 1955 On Science Fiction in Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy & Short Stories

[iv] See Bonhoeffer, D. 1954 Life Together p.111

[v] see Barth, K. 1960  Man as a Problem of Dogmatics, CD. 3:2 p.32 Hendrickson Publishers here Barth discusses the primacy of grace and the secondary place of sin in God’s attitude towards man.

Photo Credits: ‘Love Again’ by Kayle Kaupanger & ‘Old Vandalised Building – Vietnam’ by Peter Hershey on Unsplash