Closing Thoughts (1)
My primary purpose in taking up David’s life as revealed in 1 and 2 Samuel was to reestablish the undeniable connection that exists between this worldly King’s temporal reign and Christ’s eternal reign. Although this connection is utterly obvious and thus unavoidable, yet our contemporary theologians, pastors and parishioners all too often have attempted avoid it. Although they are motivated by numerous and sundry causes, one of the most prevalent is that David’s reign is related to Christ’s as a foreshadowing in time of what God has done in eternity. Thus, when it is found that David’s life was at utter variance from the “officially approved” contemporary Christian model, powerful and deeply disturbing questions are raised about the credibility and truthfulness of that model. So, rather than, in submission to Scripture, bringing their model into alignment with the testimony of Scripture, they all too often attempt to diminish if not outright discredit it.
Thus issue is of particular relevance now, as citizens of the West find themselves under siege from self-loathing, hateful internal ideologies; from aggressive new entrants who reject the foundations of our civilization; and from nations who are openly and proudly building the means by which to intimidate and even eradicate us. Under this uniform assault from within and without the West’s confidence as a civilization worth preserving has been powerfully undermined. Although that preservation in the vast majority of cases involves nonviolent acts, there are situations in which acts of violent self-defense by our governments may become necessary.
David faced this necessity through his entire life — from lonely battles with lions and bears protecting his family’s sheep to facing the monster Goliath to repelling King Saul’s murderous assaults to war with surrounding nations to civil war with his own son — David took up the sword and smote these enemies. How can such a story, which is connected to Christ in unmistakable ways, be integrated into a pacifist conception of Christianity? I don’t believe that it can be. Those holding the pacifist position are welcome to explain how it can be.
This is not in any way an argument for violence as a first, second or even third option. No, Christ did indeed teach that His followers are expected to live peaceable lives and to seek peace first and always. However, as I demonstrate in the posts following that just referenced, the goal of peaceableness does not preclude the use of violence in extremity.
The final inexcusable insult is that God gave this bloody warrior the heart of a wondrous poet, capable of creating inspired Psalms of worship and beauty that have stood for millennia within God’s Word. By their ideology a man can be a thoughtless warrior or a sensitive poet, but not both simultaneously. As is usually the case with crude ideology, it constrains the world within arbitrary, false bounds that simply cannot encompass the actual complexity of reality. Nor can it account for God’s acts of providence.
How do we explain the apparent dichotomy between David the man who acted in this world with such abandon, sometimes in exceedingly sinful ways, and David the king whose temporal reign is unmistakably tied to Christ’s eternal reign, and, whose house was used by God to be the source for Jesus Christ’s humanity, that being a “descendant of David?” Unfortunately, the contemporary Christian church provides virtually no assistance to we perplexed parishioners.
Since our contemporary clergy is either disinterested in or not up to this task, we must turn elsewhere to find the light of Christian guidance. One theologian who was forced to consider this issue in the most extreme of contexts was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who’s life is currently summarized in Wikipedia as:
a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has become a modern classic.
Anyone who has actually read Bonhoeffer’s books, or, about his life, knows that he was a personally committed Christian and brilliant theologian who eventually decided that active (including violence) resistance to the Nazi regime was absolutely necessary to fulfill his Christian calling. Thus, he had to wrestle with this very issue in order to act with a clear Christian conscience. The following excerpt from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy explains how Bonhoeffer eventually resolved the dichotomy under discussion here.
Bonhoeffer knew that to live in fear of incurring “guilt” was itself sinful. God wanted his beloved children to operate out of freedom and joy to do what was right and good, not out of fear of making a mistake. To live in fear and guilt was to be “religious” in the pejorative sense that Bonhoeffer so often talked and preached about. He knew that to act freely could mean inadvertently doing wrong and incurring guilt. In fact, he felt that living this way meant that it was impossible to avoid incurring guilt, but if one wished to live responsibly and fully, one would be willing to do so.
This resolution harmonizes perfectly with David’s life as revealed in Scripture. It absolutely rejects the perfectionist Christian pacifism that is at the center of most contemporary Mainline Protestant theologies; which appear to work hand-in-glove with the contemporary secular Progressive political movement. Through Christian perfectionism they have built a prison of guilt into which their parishioners have been thrown. That prison exists because it serves their interests, not because it is true to Scripture.