I cannot say all that I want to say in response to Pastor Mark Driscoll's piece, chiefly because I lack the time, the space, and the expertise to address it in the way it deserves. Nor do I want to start a war (literal or metaphorical) with the dear Christian brothers and sisters who think differently than I do about this complex issue. So, please: don't see this as me picking a fight. I can't possibly finish it if I did.
This is me thinking out loud...giving my string of tweets a bit more nuance. When I think about the Driscoll's piece, I think these things:
- Asking if God is a Pacifist is the Wrong Question. We do not come to God because He lines up with our values or ideals. We see God in the face of Christ and ask what we now must do with this Jesus: follow Him or crucify Him.
Pacifism is an ideal, a way of thinking about issues. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not deal in abstract categories. He is the tri-personal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pacifists follow an ideal and look for it in Jesus; Christians follow Jesus and discover a Way that is surprising, impossible, and compellingly beautiful.
For all these reasons and more, it is more helpful to speak about what "Christian Non-Violence" is, rather than the "leading-the-witness" question Driscoll frames his piece with.
- The Book of Revelation Must Be Handled Carefully. The first thing my Fuller Seminary prof pointed out about Revelation is that it is not a book of prophecy. I know: this can sound like heresy to all the end-times folks, but Revelation says of itself that it is a work of...wait for it...revelation. It fits very well in the apocalyptic literature tradition.
What is the difference, you ask, between prophetic literature and apocalyptic literature? Prophetic literature is designed to tell you something about what's coming so you can adjust your actions accordingly. Joseph interprets Pharoah's dream about the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of lack so they can prepare for the years of drought. But apocalyptic literature is not designed to predict; it's designed to reveal. It pulls back the curtain and says, "This is what is really going on in the world."
Revelation shows that contrary to the evidence of Christians being slaugtered in Rome, Caesar is not in fact ruling the world; Jesus is. Jesus-- the one who absorbed the most hideous blow of death, the one who was raised from the dead to show that this way of violence and death does not, in the end, win-- is Lord.
Is it possible that Revelation borrows imagery from Roman conquests to show God's ultimate triumph? Is it possible that judgment is not the same as violence? Revelation does indeed show a God who will in the end hold evildoers to account; and, yes, sin stirs up God's wrath. But that is not the same as saying that Jesus will be angry and violent when He returns.
The central image of Jesus in Revelation is of a "Lamb standing, as though it had been slain". This is in contrast to the Dragon. What's the difference between a lamb and a dragon? One is the victim; the other the perpetrator. This image resonated with early Christians, who were always the victims. Yet this death was not the end.
- Christian Hope is Not Grounded in Eschatological Violence. Some Christians act like the hope offered in the book of Revelation is something like, "Don't worry, God's gonna nuke them in the end!" Listen: God will hold evildoers to account. There will be judgment. But judgment, with God, may not always be as we suspect.
Moreover, the great hope-- from God Himself!-- at the end of the Book of Revelation is not, "Don't worry I killed them all"; it's, "Behold, I am making everything new!"
He will wipe away every tear-- that means He will heal all the pain and hurt of all who grieve, all who have been victimized, all who have been broken by the violence in our world.
And death will be no more. There it is: Christian hope is not grounded in God's alleged future violence; it is grounded in the belief that death does not win. Jesus has the last word, not the Beast. Jerusalem-- the city of peace!-- is the new eternal city, not Babylon-- the city of rebellion and violence.
Now, the question is: How does a person who believes that death does not win live now? How does a follower of Jesus the Crucifed and Risen Lord, the Lamb who was slain (read: the victim, by the world's estimation, not the victor) live here?
These are all better questions to me than, "Is God a Pacifist?"