Thursday, August 14, 2008

The specificity of religious doctrine


In the course of studying Islam, Islamism and why the Middle-Eastern nations can’t seem to progress into modern times, it became clear that a major impediment for them was the specificity of the Koran. Muhammad provided considerable detail about how Muslims were to live, how their societies should be constructed, how they should fight wars, how they should treat their enemies, how they should treat a conquered people and on and on. The only part of the Bible that is at all comparable is the Pentateuch and Christians, at least non-theonomic Christians, see the specificity of the Pentateuchal laws as being abrogated by the New Testament. The earliest doctrinal struggle had to do with whether these laws would carry over into Christian doctrine. Paul was very much opposed to this and those Jewish Christians who disagreed with him were called Judaizers.

On the other hand, the Scriptures that the disciples referred to were the Old Testament Scriptures. While it has been well argued that we are “no longer under the Law,” the other parts of Scripture remain useful for “training in righteousness.”

And so when someone argues that Jesus was a pacifist because he never provided instruction for war we must take the Old Testament into consideration. Not one jot or tittle of the Law (taken to stand for all the teachings of the OT) would be abrogated until all was fulfilled. It is our doctrine that he fulfilled the actual legal law, but what of the rest, what of self-defense, what of war? Wars were fought and are still fought. The activities of the intertestemental activities of the Maccabees were well known to the disciples, as were the pejorative Psalms. We are no longer under Law, but we are to fight when need be. We are to oppose our enemies and when we are too weak to oppose them we call for God’s help in destroying them. At least that was David’s pattern and neither Jesus nor the disciples abrogate this common-sense element in human existence. Jesus is not quite silent on this matter for he makes a blanket statement incorporating the OT into his teachings. We need to look at the OT through the filter of his teachings, never the less the OT is there to be looked at, and neither Jesus nor his disciples instruct us that we are to become pacifists -- Unless one insists that his teachings about personal relationships should be expanded and made applicable to an entire nation – unless we were to take a teaching like “if someone slaps you on the left, turn to him also the right and say that means that if one bombs our Trade Towers we should offer him the opportunity of bombing the White House as well.

One of the beauties of the New Testament is that it is not specific about such matters. We can move from Monarchies seamlessly into Liberal Democracies with the same Bible.

Muslims cannot do this. Their Koran ties them to a law, a Sharia, that was developed to deal with a medieval society. Their Sharia forbids them the liberty, the freedom, even the free economy necessary to operate a Liberal-Democracy.

Lawrence Helm

No comments: