Tag Archives: Epistle to the Romans

Do You Hate Your Enemies Enough To Love Them?

A VERY QUICK THOUGHT EXPERIMENT USING RIGHT WING CONTRARIANISM

In the latest edition of What Nonsense Is NeoCalvinism Preaching today, an employee for John Piper’s Desiring God, referring to Piper’s works, Do You Love Your Enemies Enough to Hate Them?| Desiring God, wants Christians to believe Jesus told us to hate our enemies. A hate, which in turn, will enable Christians to adopt a Crusader theocratic mentality to enact violence upon those we disagree. HATE IN THE NAME OF LOVE YALL. Enter Mr. Parnell:

“And when Jesus said “love,” we should be clear that he didn’t mean hollow good will, or some bland benevolence, or a flakey niceness that hopes our enemies stop being so cruel. Jesus never talks about love that way.”

Good will? Benevolence? Flakey niceness? “Surely now goodness and mercy will FOLLOW me all the days of my life” or “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you”; the concept of forgiveness means nothing but fire insurance? Oh Parnell probably just means any worldview that endorses nonviolence over bloodshed, and any man (literally) who isn’t a Just War Crusader is probably lacking in the area of masculinity. Did I get that right? Wanna know how many times Mr. Parnell quotes Jesus in his post? ABSOLUTELY ZERO! That’s right! Let’s talk about how Jesus discussed love without actually referring to the Gospels. Makes sense to me.

The one passage from John 5 that the author refers to is concerning the resurrection of the dead, and was completely irrelevant to the subject of Jesus “teaching hate.”

Parnell continues:

“Evil belittles God’s holiness and evidences that his name is not hallowed. We hate evil because it is wrong. But on the other hand, if this hatred is part of loving our enemies, we must hate the evil of our enemies because of what the evil means for them.”

If evil “belittles” God’s holiness, what an absolute puny god you must believe in.

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

Parnell’s theology (NeoCalvinism) is a god that remains distant, aloof, far above us, with a holiness that stresses separation rather than acts of goodness and redemption. What Piper and other NeoCalvinists are trying to do is to co-opt a set of harmful words usually geared toward the LGBTQIA community, and also apply them to radical Muslims. In both instances, they fail and will continue to fail. Love the sinner but hate the sinner is not only an unbiblical concept, but within the context of NeoCalvinist theology and its view of Total Depravity, it is incredibly harmful. Total Depravity is the extreme version of Augustine’s concept of Original Sin. If we are born inherently sinful, and that sinfulness is (as Original Sin argues) is passed down BIOLOGICALLY, then there is no separation between the sin and the sinner. Since then human fallenness is a natural phenomenon, a person who hates the sin also hates the sinner in Original Sin logic.

Now, not only does Jesus actually talk about what enemy-love looks like, the earliest followers of Christ like the apostle Paul did too. Let’s take a glance, shall we!

Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)

I know Calvinists love Romans a lot, except for that 12th chapter thing. Ethics just gets in the way of everything. Here’s the apostle Paul, as recorded by his secretary, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord” (verse 19). Say it isn’t so! Pauline Christianity also means really trusting in YHWH’s justice rather than our own. Looks like Paul takes his cues from Judaism rather than pagan practices. The living, sacrificial love that Piper and NeoCalvinists completely get wrong is not about calling evil good, (warmongering, violence versus Muslims as a necessary evil to bring about “the Gory Glory of God,” but it is overcoming evil with good. It is engaging the defeated powers of death with the awesome, life-giving peacemaking of Christ Jesus. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”

Well, now, that’s awkward. Seems like the apostle Paul is saying we are hoping for our enemies’ wellbeing.

Lastly, let us never forget that God does not die for His enemies (the ungodly as Romans 5:6 says) in Calvinism; since the Elect are predestined, they were chosen to be God’s friends since the beginning of time. So God in Christ cannot exhibit love for his enemies in the least, especially since the reprobate have not a chance in hell of getting into heaven (it’s been foreordained, folks!). Enemy-love as defined by Christ and the Good News gets redefined as worldly acts of needless retributive violence in PiperCalvinism.

God loves the righteous and the unrighteous. I mean, if Romans 3 is understood to be saying that we are all sinners, the logic of “love the sinner, hate the sin” turns on itself. I love myself but I also hate myself, and yet there is not one Bible passage that tells us that we lose the Image of God in us during or after “the Fall”? Even in the context of Matthew 5 (verse 22), Jesus condemns his followers if they rely on namecalling (distorting the Image of God in others)to the pit of Hell. Jesus seems pretty intent on us loving others, yes in a BENEVOLENT, HOPEFUL manner. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that NeoCalvinists would prefer to affirm a god as hateful rather than any form of divine benevolence. They’ve held that error for well over five centuries, and they can keep it!

Christ in #Ferguson: On The Theological Failure of R.R. Reno’s Comments on Race and Criminality

A guest post

Timothy McGee is a doctoral student at Southern Methodist University, working in the area of systematic theology. His research focuses on 20th century political theologies, especially as they draw on Christological themes in their analysis and critique of the political configurations of life and death.

R.R. Reno, the main editor of the religious journal First Things, recently made a series of troubling posts on Ferguson (8/25, 8/26a, 8/26b, 8/27). Having commented on some of the false and prejudicial aspects his claims, I want to entertain the possibility that, at least on one point, R.R. Reno was correct. The moment when Reno was correct is, however, a complicated moment, similar in more ways than one to that moment in John’s Gospel when Caiaphas supported the plot to kill Jesus by saying: “You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (John 11:50).

The complicated moment in which Reno says something right as long as we read it against the grain is this: “We’ve all—black and white—decided to accept the fact that the culture of poor blacks is violent, dangerous, and dysfunctional. The best we can do is keep the violence under control with aggressive policing and incarceration (8/25).” The “we” is the point at which Reno is both terribly wrong and in another way, completely right. For this “we” is not the “we” of all but rather the respectable we—black and white—formed through the denunciation and exclusion of the “violent, dangerous, and dysfunctional.” Reno is completely at one here with his liberal opponents. They may offer different explanations for what causes the problems facing African-Americans: collapse of family values or past and present forms of racist discrimination. They may also offer different solutions: restoring nuclear family or providing governmental remedies for causes and effects of discrimination. But both agree—and the “we” of the nation is formed out of this agreement—that the cohesion and security of the nation depends on monitoring, separating out, and eradicating (civilizing/incarcerating)those deviant or delinquent black others here: for instance, recall how much effort liberals spent to identify “looters” as “outside agitators,” and thus not part of the respectable we.

It is also at this precise point that Reno begins, in a deeply troubling theological moment, to echo the logic Caiaphas expressed: the logic of sacrifice. Reno’s overall point is that the criminal culture of poor blacks necessitates the aggressive policing that targets them, thereby making the black community responsible for the racial disparities in who suffers the inevitable mistakes and shortcomings of police. Policing, therefore, always brings with it the sacrifice of some, but ultimately these sacrifices are what keep the whole nation from being destroyed by this criminality, until this criminal threat—“the culture of poor blacks”—is overcome.This logic of containment, control, management, and transformation through (cultural) death is the logic of the “we” of the U.S., a logic that, as we know, has simultaneously included and excluded—or included as excluded—black bodies ” (most obviously but not only in the three-fifths clause). Conservatives and liberals are at one in that the solution to “black violence” is to increase the inclusion of blacks into this “we,” into us, the respectable law-abiding and law-giving citizens. What Reno cannot imagine—which is, I think, the theological problem at the center of his troubling remarks—is that the Christian community is bound together as a “we” not through a “nobility of faith” that is placed equally alongside “the dignity of work” and “marriage and family.” Rather, the Christian community is formed as those whose lives are bound together in and through the body of the poor, marginalized, unwanted, un(re)productive, criminalized, and crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Christian community is not formed among those justified by the law but among those who are brought into the body of the one condemned by the law (Gal 3:11-14).

And so, with this failure of theological imagination, Reno is unable to imagine poor black bodies as the figure of Christ. At best, he can do so in the same way as liberals: only insofar as these bodies are docile and respectable—i.e., submissive to or tragically murdered by the law (of whiteness). What neither can imagine is black violence as figuring Christ for us (as Nyle Fort has recently argued). For neither can imagine the foundational anti-black violence—the simultaneous exclusion and containment—at the core of our national identity. Or, to put it in more traditional theological terms and from the other side: neither can imagine that only the rupture of our
national identity—the “death” of the we in which Reno speaks—can be a sign of our salvation through this God’s broken body (cf. Phil. 3:4-11).

By his refusal of this rupture, Reno cannot imagine the lives of those crossed out by this we as existing—living and loving and fighting—as a parable for how God comes to us in Jesus of Nazareth. Precisely at the site of exclusion internal to the production of the nation, God has identified God’s own life not with the respectable “we” but with those James Cone calls “the oppressed,” granting them possibilities for life that exceed a world structured by their containment and death. To put it again in more traditional theological terms, if Christ is for and with them in the Spirit, who can stand against them (cf. Rom 8:31-39)? And we—yes, I place my respectable white self clearly in Reno’s we—cannot imagine we have a future with this God without attending to and entering these ruptures created by the struggles and movements of black Americans. That Reno cannot imagine this possibility—the Christological work of joining—but instead rushes to excuse the inevitability of sacrifice while blaming black Americans for their suffering is the theological failure at the center of his deeply troubling remarks on race and Ferguson.

Clement on Romans 8:38 & 39

It is inevitable, then, that those who confess themselves to belong to Christ, but find themselves in the midst of the devil’s works, suffer the most hostile treatment. For it is written, ‘ Lest he deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officers of Satan’s kingdom.’ [Luke 11:17-19] ‘For I am persuaded that neither death,’ through the assault of persecutors, ‘ nor life’ in this world, ‘nor angels.’ the apostate ones, ‘nor powers’ (and Satan’s powers is the life which he chose, for such are the powers and principalities of darkness belonging to him), ‘nor things present,’ amid which we exist during the time of life, as the hope entertained by the soldier and the merchant’s gain, ‘nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,’ in consequence of the energy proper to a man,— opposes the faith of him who acts according to free choice. ‘Creature’ is is synonymous with activity, being our work, and such activity ‘shall not be able to separate us from the the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LORD. [Romans 8:38, 39]

-Clement of Alexandria, The Carpets [Stromata], Book 5, Chapter 14

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