Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Osama bin Laden, Justice, and Baptist Ethicists

JUSTICE? In the words of Alasdair MacIntyre, “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?” Tom Strode, Baptist Press bureau chief for D.C. wrote an article yesterday (May 2) in which he quoted the opinions of several prominent Baptist ethicists concerning the killing of bin Laden. Before I address my disagreements with these men let me say that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Heimbach, Dr. Land, and Dr. Mohler. Dr. Heimbach served as my thesis advisor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and I hold very similar views on ethics to all three of these gentlemen. However, in Strode’s article these men use the term “justice” several times in conjuction with what was accomplished with bin Laden’s death. I question the use of the word “justice” in relation to the circumstances of bin Laden’s death. I must say that I take issue with the broad use of the word justice in general. I believe that many people, Christians included, are using this term without much thought to what it implies. I’m certainly not as well read as these gentlemen, but I have read enough and studied history enough to know that bringing about true justice is far more nuanced than simply killing a man who was integral in planning the deaths of a large number of people.

Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, does an excellent job of outlining the classical development of justice through the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. He shows that the idea of justice is something culturally bound and susceptible to change. He writes, “It has become evident that conceptions of justice and of practical rationality generally and characteristically confront us as closely related aspects of some larger, more or less well-articulated, overall view of human life and of its place in nature” (389). The possible socio-religious nuances involved in bin Laden’s reasoning for coordinating several attacks on American citizens, along with the history of the involvement of the American government with Bin Laden, ads a significant sense of complexity to the causality behind the actions of every party involved. It is na├»ve to say that bin Laden simply and willingly played the role of villain in America’s story on the achievement of justice.

Under Heimbach’s tutelage I was introduced to the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr wrote about the complexities of claiming that any one institution or people had the corner on claiming that justice had been achieved in any given set of circumstances. In the second volume of Niebuhr’s Nature and Destiny of Man he “recognizes that the creative and destructive possibilities of human history are inextricably intermingled. The very power which organizes human society and establishes justice, also generates injustice by its preponderance of power” (21). To claim that bin Laden has finally been brought to justice does not respect all the plays of power that have taken place in the Middle East over the past 40 years. I believe that all three of the Baptist ethicists mentioned above would agree with me that the American government has blood on its hands in relation to how it has, at times, dealt with various sectarian groups and governments in the Middle East.

I am not espousing the idea that bin Laden did not have it coming to him. Nor am I suggesting that the American government was wrong in pursuing him. What I am suggesting is that we, as Christians, find another way to speak of such matters. Justice, as my fellow ethicists noted earlier, is finally served in relation to our accountability to God. Dr. Mohler’s statement that Bin Laden missed out on “full human justice,” is to suggest that somehow man has the capacity to dispense justice in a pure form. Dr. Mohler may have not meant to suggest that human justice is somehow pure, but that implication can be drawn from his statement.

Let us be careful in how we speak of justice. We all deserve the consequences of our sin in relation to a just God, and yet those who believe in Christ Jesus’ work on the cross have been spared. I propose that we speak, rather, in terms of bringing someone to accountability for their actions rather than justice. Osama bin Laden was finally held accountable by the American government for his role in the 911 attacks on our citizens. Our desire to seek vengeance against bin Laden for his role in the 911 attacks is not more important than our humility before a truly just and righteous God.

By: Jason Truett Glen

Works Cited:
MacIntyre, Alasdair. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988.

Niebuhr, Reinhold. Human Destiny, Vol. 2 of The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943. Reprint, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Evil is Alive and Well

As I was traveling through the mountains of NC listening to the radio, I heard a new song by Jakob Dylan. Some may know him from his 90's band, The Wallflowers. Others might know know him as the son of Bob Dylan. As I was listening to Jakob's song, "Evil is Alive and Well" the truth of his lyrics awakened my lathargic mind. They had a prophetic overtone to them that went deeper than the normal political commentary of today's culture and popular musicians. I appreciate the lyrics of such bands as Coldplay. They cleverly attack the political misteps of various leaders and interests groups and call out injustice(s) according to whatever standard of morality they subscribe to. But Jakob's lyrics were turned inward as well as outward. They warned the listener that something wrong lies within the heart of man. Listen to him:

"It doesn't always have a shape
Almost never does it have a name It maybe has a pitchfork maybe has a tail
But evil is alive and well
It might walk upright from out of the inferno
May be coming horseback through deep snow
It's ragged and fat hungry as hell"

"Evil is alive and well; Evil is alive, Evil is well
Evil is alive Evil is well
On your feet to the tower and yell; Evil is alive and well"

"May be too humble to want to speak
May have a blood soaked bird in its teeth
Smoked filled skies and bees in the well
Evil is alive and well
Maybe in a palace it may be in the streets
May be here among us on a crowded beach
May be asleep in a roadside motel But evil is alive and well"

"Evil is alive Evil is well; Evil is alive, Evil is well
On your feet to the tower and yell
Evil is alive and well It's well"

"Down in every ditch Up on every hill It's well
I've got my radio on Drowning the bells
When midnight's done and the day won't start
And All I ever gave you was a broken heart
It's hard to admit but it's easy to tell
That evil is alive and well"

I'm not aware of Jakob's religious beliefs but he certainly has caught on to the fact that we have not progressed beyond the evil within us. His call to individuals to go "up to the tower and yell" is refreshing and convicting. That is where the Interrelational Church comes into play. Nobody can critique you better than a intimate group of individuals who love you and share the same foundational worldview. The fractured evangelical church of today's America is not heard. It is not respected as it was earlier in the 20th century. Its calls for a universal standard of morality are not entertained by most politicians and social structures because it's own foundation is fractured with a thousand opinions and beliefs. Unity is not always a good thing, but an interrelational body of believers has more potential to call individuals and groups to accountability than the fragmented traditional church that does not even know it's members or what they believe. We all struggle with the evil that is within us. We all struggle with the evil that is in the world. Yet, if we approach the former as a community, then it will be significantly easier to approach the latter with a unified voice.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mutual Intimacy and Covenanted Communities

I am the great blog neglector. There, I admitted it. Nonetheless, I have continued to have very fruitful discussions concerning the interrelational church philosophy with many people over the past six months that I have been absent from the blogoshere. One of the main issues that continued to come to the forefront in these discussions concerned whether it was necessary for there to be a “local” group of covenanted individuals to meet the requirement of a functional body of believers. In some ways this question is related to whether one should be focused on seeing church through the lens of the universal church or through the local church. While I am sympathetic toward those who desire to broaden their relationships with believers outside of their geographical or traditional spheres, I still find myself arguing for what I term “mutual intimacy.” The ideal implementation of mutual intimacy is unrealistic, but when used as a driving philosophical tenet, it can help bring about a practical movement toward true interrelational community.
When I first propose the necessity for a covenanted (an agreement among believers of belief and conduct based on a common foundation) group of believers in my definition of how Christians should image Christ, one of the main objections normally goes like this: “But doesn’t my intimate interaction with various believers in different realms of my life qualify as my involvement with the church?” This is a good point and I have some agreement with it. Ultimately though, I am brought back to asking them the question, “Do all those Christians you have a relationship with have a desire or ability to have mutual intimacy with one another as well?” Most of the time the individual I have talked to does not see the necessity of such a quality and I have to explain further. “If you fall into a sinful habit, and one of your friends finds out, will that individual have a realistic and effective way of encouraging all of your scattered Christian friends to discipline you in a like manner?”
Since there is such an epidemic in the actualization of church discipline in the Christianity of our day, it is extremely important that we, the body of Christ, consider how we might again foster the proper institution of the biblical discipline of believers. Without writing a Baxterian theses on church discipline, I think we can all see how the philosophy of mutual intimacy can promote the proper discipline of those in a covenanted community of believers. If we all know each other as well as time and living circumstances permit, then we can all, theoretically, come to a better agreement as to when discipline is needed, why it is needed, how it is to be applied, and the terms for reconciliation once it is applied. Without such a covenanted community it would be easier for the wounded member to avoid healing by deceiving, and relying on the acceptance of, other friends who are not in the know. Thus is the tragic circumstances of most “covenanted” gatherings anyway, mostly due to their inadequate ecclesiology. Mutual intimacy is a rare bird in the jungle of Christian gatherings. Unfortunately, those gatherings that most exemplify this quality are those that are the least functional in interaction with the world, i.e. the Amish and Mennonites. There are certainly other churches that are better at implementing this quality but they are few and lack popular exposure.
There is enough meat here to start our discussion concerning a universal vs. a local understanding of personal church involvement, so let the discussion begin. I look forward to hearing from those who have contributed before and to any new comers that enjoy interacting with our topics of discussion.

I have also included some pics of my life from the past several months.
The kids and I during our Christmas Eve celebration
My 80's themed 31st Birthday
An Easter pic with my three little girls
St. Patty's Day in Raleigh with Gareth and friend Jon

One of those ecclesiological conversations with friend Stan
My wife Ashlee and fellow congregants at a church gathering
Our community of believers gathering for the Lord's Supper

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Getting A Little More Personal


I have done a pretty poor job of keeping the current stream of thought going. This circumstance is partly due to my new job, which takes me out to places I have not seen for days at a time and then sends me home to indulge in the time I have with my family. I do have time on the road, like right now, when I sit in Starbucks all over the Southeast and check email, research for my thesis, keep up with blogs, and make attempts at adding new material to this blog.

I have decided to bring in some material that will express my circumstances a little more, and hopefully be of some interest to you. I will, of course, continue the discussions on the "Interrelational Church," but now it will be accompanied by pictures and bits of information concerning my travels. Maybe I can even learn a little more about ecclesiology in my business travels.

This first post will be followed by some pictures I took down in Jacksonville, FL and St. Simon's Island, GA. Please feel free to continue to comment on that which I post. I am a social individual and am not one of those who views his blog as a journal that might gratify one’s desire to talk to oneself. Thanks for visiting the site. This is one of the better ways I can share my life with so many friends that are spread across the United States. I have been blessed to have a selection of friends from many different states and backgrounds. I would love to hear from you all.

In Christ, Jason T. Glen

This is a landing on the St. John's River that I spent a day at. It conveniently had a Starbucks and a nice selection of restaurants. It was also down the road from First Baptist Jacksonville (Of Jerry Vines fame). Speaking of that church...they had a pretty extravagant security system there but I was amazingly able to make it into the inner sanctum after they had closed. What I found there is somewhat disturbing. In the new children's building I found a toy shop. I'm probably narrow minded, but do we really need toy shops in our children's ministry complex. I said that like we all have children's ministry complexes. They did have key card entry door on all children's building hallways, that was pretty responsible.

That little window of goodies included board games, card games, cars, action figures, and other "giggle" material. I'm pretty hip to the ages but... Come On! Is that really necessary?
On a positive note, I did get to see the sanctuary where my dad graduated from Luther Rice Seminary with his Doctorate. I think it was in 1980, which was the last time I had been to Florida before last week.
More of my trip to come!!!!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Father sent the Spirit for Interrelational Purposes.

Well, I have certainly given us all ample time to do some research on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Interrelation process. I had just about enough time to find out that I would need a couple of years to do the subject justice. That being said I will try and highlight some passages and concepts that kept coming back to me as I read through the scriptures with Interrelation in mind. Let us begin in Acts.

We are confronted immediately in Acts with the desire that Jesus had for His people; to receive His gift to them as a community. The terminology of the individual is not found here. When Luke is explaining to Theophilus the history of the Body he is also explaining to him the nature of the Body. Luke points out the importance of the fact that Christ, after “gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4).

Jesus certainly could have commanded the disciples to proceed on to strategic sociopolitical geographical areas, containing large populations of diverse people, in order that when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit the disciples would already be placed in the most efficient places to rapidly disseminate the Gospel. But He did not choose that strategy. As we have already discussed numerous times in this blog, the Holy Trinity desired to propagate a holy Community of believers. Jesus had sent out special ops teams of two at a prior time in order to tell of His coming, but the sending of the Spirit would bring about a neo-orthodox way of proclaiming the kingdom. The people of Israel were to be that city on a hill that would draw men to worship the One True God, but it consistently strayed from its purpose. Jesus spoke to the disciples of the new witnessing community that would be empowered from on high and reach to the remotest parts of the world (Acts 1:6-8). With the indwelling guidance of the Spirit, this believing community, the Body of Christ, would succeed where the nation of Israel fell short.

What do you think? Do my statements above stretch the text to mean something other than intended? As you begin to interact with this introduction to the interrelational activities of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, I will continue to post passages in Acts that reveal this important understanding of the Spirit’s work among us.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Holy Spirit and the Interrelation of the Body

I wanted to use the last post's question concerning the authority and ability of various members of the Body as a stepping stone to a very important discussion on what role the Holy Spirit takes in interrelating the Body and where such knowledge might be found in the Scriptures. I am not yet fully ready to back up my view with specific Biblical passages so I will spend some time over the next several days seeking passages within the New Testament that refer to the Holy Spirit's involvement within the Body. Please join me in this research, if you have any time, so that we might have an informed and edifying discussion on how the Holy Spirit is involved in the Interrelational Church.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Interrelation between the Teacher and Student

I had an interesting discussion this weekend at a fellowship taking place at the house of an elder of the church we were visiting. It was a wonderful time that took place after the worship service; and which included the taking of the Lord’s Supper and the baptism of a new believer. It certainly looked more interrelational than anything that I have experienced within the last couple of years.

An interesting topic arose during the conversation that took place outside in this man’s back yard. I was trying to explain the idea of bringing more interrelation into the worship service format when one of the men asked a very poignant question. He asked something to the effect of, “Are you suggesting that it would be more likely that an interactive discussion taking place between a group of unlearned new believers and one seasoned believer would be more spiritually enlightening than a circumstance where the seasoned believer was lecturing the new believers on the meaning of a text?” I thought for a second and then assuredly answered, “Yes, I am saying that.” Then the man gave a seemingly logical critique. He wondered how it could be more edifying for the unlearned new believers to keep asking questions and critiquing what the Biblically seasoned believer had to say when all that would do is interrupt the wise expository interpretation that could be flowing from the elder’s lips. He brought up the fact that no truly wise counsel on the meaning of the Word could come from those who had not yet read and exposited it. The lack of knowledge of the new believers required that they submit to the lectures given by the Biblically sound teacher and only when well educated would they be able to sit as the instructor rather than the instructed.

Does this man raise a relevant question? Can the principle of interrelation make a difference in the worship service proper, or is it designated only to the realm of small groups and special workshops? Is there room for student to question the teacher? A more theologically ambiguous question might be: Can the new Christian who has not heard the Word offer any spiritual insight to the wise teacher who has studied the Word thoroughly? Let me know what you think.