I recently did an interview with John Shuck on the radio show/podcast progressive spirit, also on youtube about my book “All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.” I hope you enjoy it.
I would argue that the best summation of Christian ethics is found in the sermon on the plain in Luke 6:20–49. What I love about the sermon on the plain is just how radical it seems on the surface, it seems almost impossible; however, when you think about what it’s saying, and think about it deeply—it makes sense. Probably my favorite example of this is found in Luke 6:34–35 (NRSV):
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
The fluttering of a butterflies wings can start a chain of events leading to a tsunami, this is a parable used in Chaos theory called the butterfly effect. It’s also a parable used in theology, specifically theodicy, to explain how we can never know all the factors of, and effects of, evil. It’s used especially by Calvinists who appeal to the principle found Genesis 50:20, the idea being that God pre-ordains evil because he intends to use it to bring good out of it. The same goes for non-calvinists, arminians and modalists; they will often point to the finitude of human understanding to make the point that God created a world with evil but that it is justified because there is ultimately good that will come out of it, even to the point of saying it would be logically impossible to create a world without evil.
This post is continuing from a previous post examining the article from the First Things journal called “The Pacifist Temptation” by William Doino Jr. that defends Just War theory against Christian Pacifism. In the previous post we looked at the earliest records of Christianity’s relationship with the Military, in this post we’ll look a little more at the pragmatic argument for the “Just War” theory. Just war theory doesn’t depend usually on in depth theological thought, or on the basis of the early Christian practice. Rather, generally the defence of a Just war theory is on the basis of Pragmatism. Back to the Article “The Pacifist Temptation” William Doino Jr. says:
Starting with Saint Augustine Christianity had always had a concept of ”Just War, ” whereas Christian pacifism has always been a force in Christianity, historically the “Just War” theology won over. The conservative religious journal “first things” published an article recently By William Doino Jr. where he defends the Catholic “Just War” theory against what he calls “The Pacifist Temptation.” The temptation he’s referring to a conference held by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace and the Pax Christi movement, which led to a declaration by Pax Christi that appealed to a commitment to Nonviolence and insisted that there cannot be such a thing as “Just War.”
The Pew Research Center recently released data on the differences between religious and non-religious people when it comes to everyday life activities. One of the findings I find very interesting is the answer to the question “In the past week, did you donate money, time or goods to help the poor.” 65% of highly religious people, 41% not highly religious people, 34% of the “nothing in particular” group and 28 percent of Atheists answered yes. It seems to be that the more religious one is the more likely one is to spend time, money or goods helping the poor.
Saint Augustine is one of the most influential theologians in history; he’s almost synonymous with western Christianity. In my opinion, all theology needs to start with biblical hermeneutics, what do the scriptures tell us? How are we to read them? What is and is not authoritative? How can they be interpreted? These are the questions that are going to have to come first in theology. Saint Augustine wrote many interpretive works, most famously “the literal meaning of Genesis.” But in his work “on Christian Doctrine” he lays out some general hermeneutical principles, given his influence, I’m going to go over two that I find interesting and pertinent to modern theology.