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.
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.”
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν.
And in the NRSV:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
This scripture is used over and over again, by Reza Aslan types who want to prove that the New Testament and Christianity is just as potentially violent as the Koran, the Old Testament, or any other religious text, or to show that Christianity is entirely open to any and every potential interpretation. The argument goes something like this usually, the first person says “Such and Such religious text is problematic because of what it teaches,” and the Reza Aslan type responds with “well, the new Testament says I came not to bring peace but a sword” and Christians choose to ignore than, or interpret it away, so we can do the same with other religious texts. I is not legitimate to simply isolate a text in any religious tradition that may be violent and think that this in and of itself shows anything, for Christianity or any other tradition, you need to do exegesis and theology, and think the whole tradition through. So can this scripture be legitimately used to defend violence? Well let’s examine it.
In Part one of this series of posts on Michael Heiser’s treatment of Acts 2:42-47, I went over Michael’s assumption of Capitalism as the default system ignoring Capitalism’s actual history, and his ignoring of the theological background of the text. In this post, we continue with his understanding of Acts 2:42-47. To get the full context I would suggest you listen to Michael Heiser’s podcast episode and then read Part 1 of this series. Michael Heiser says:
The activity described in acts of having all things in common, that phrase is actually only mentioned in acts 2 and 4 in the New testament, the phrase never occurs of any other new testament church founded by Paul or any other apostle. Now that suggests that there was something unique about the situation in the original Jerusalem church that presumably wasn’t transmitted or handed down by the apostles as some kind of binding custom or inspired idea to other new testament churches. That omission would be really strange if what we’re reading in acts chapter 2 was binding revelation, or a binding example, that this what the kingdom of God is. If that was true the omission here is strange, since it’s not passed down to all the other churches that we read about in the new testament, much less some sort of political state.
So according to Michael Heiser this communal situation was unique. This goes completely against the evidence as we see in Tertullian who wrote in his Apologia (Ch 39):