The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How To Live Under An Unqualified President by John Piper


Didn’t Paul give advice to soldiers - and the advice was to serve well, not to quit?
Did Jesus ever tell soldiers to quit their service?
Is there any indication at all that the Paul’s standard advice was - do not resist?
We have the one verse about turning the other cheek - it’s not enough to support the rest of the NT, so I assume we have to think of it in another way.
Make what you will of the following, it is a historical record:
" Lest any believe that the Roman army was not filled with Christian men, the following is an account written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius of a time in 174 when he was stranded in Germany without his legions and surrounded by German fighters:

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor 162-180) |350x256

                    Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor 162-180)

“….But being disregarded by them (his pagan gods to whom he had prayed), I summoned those who among us go by the name of Christians. And having made inquiry (in his army), I discovered a great number and vast host of (Christians) and I raged against them, which was by no means becoming; for afterwards I learned their power. Wherefore they began the battle, not by preparing weapons, nor arms, nor bugles; for such preparation is hateful to them, on account of the God they bear about in their conscience. Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be atheists have God as their ruling power entrenched in their conscience. For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. For during five days we had got no water, because there was none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the enemy’s territory. And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground and praying to God—a God of whom I am ignorant—water poured from heaven upon us refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a withering hail. And immediately we recognized the presence of God following on the prayer—a God unconquerable and indestructible.” from Marcus Aurelius’ Epistle to the Roman Senate


Since the debate is good, for a free society…I thought I would share, this informative video! :wink:


Jesus mentioned selling your cloak to buy a sword. The disciples apparently thought he was referring to present defense, but I think He meant something else. In a similar vein, we read about another misunderstanding concerning the literal and the metaphorical:

Matthew 16:6, 11
6 Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
11 “How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

I certainly don’t believe Jesus meant, “two swords will be enough to battle the crowd that is coming to arrest me.” The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which we must furnish ourselves. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.

In Revelation 1:16, we read about “a sharp two-edged sword” coming out of Jesus’ mouth, but in Greek it is written “sharp two-mouthed sword” ( δίστομος “having a double mouth,” dis -two, and stoma -mouth). Joseph Prince has suggested that we think of it this way: the two-mouthed sword represents that the word leaves the mouth of God first, and then the word leaves your mouth second when you quote it.

We famously see the words of God used as a weapon against the devil, here:

Matthew 4:4, 7, 9-10

  • But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’

  • Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’

  • And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Like President Trump, I do believe in the freedom to buy and keep firearms–although I would like to see better enforced background checks, and a required gun safety course.

But divine protection is better. Psalm 91 is all about divine protection.


On the contrary, a literal interpretation of “2 swords” derives support from 3 considerations:
(1) The context implies a literal interpretation: the sword purchase is to be accompanied by a literal purchase of a purse and bag. So “sword” must be construed in the same way.
(2) If a figurative sense of “sword” were intended, Jesus would not have permitted His disciples to carry around swords for self-defense. The context does not imply an identification of the “sword” as a Bible symbol and, in any case, the disciples would already have access to Bible scrolls.
(3) Peter’s resort to violence in Gethsemane is not an act of justified self-defense, but an aggressive act intended to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His mission of an atoning death.


(on 1,2) Jesus’ saying that it’s a time to finance swords is widely interpreted as a striking Semitic way of warning disciples his mission has reached the stage where they can expect a violent response to it.

Taking Jesus’ variously interpreted “Enough!” when the disciples produce two literal swords as, he “advocates” that his disciples’ be prepared to kill threats to their life in self-defense, strikes me as reading in an interpretation that is not at all clearly stated. My impression is that Jesus’ view of how he called followers to respond to enemies and threats is best based on looking at the totality of his teaching relevant to this, and that his emphasis is heavily stacked in the direction of a less violent approach than being ready to kill.

(on 3) My impression is that Luke’s immediate recording of Jesus’ repudiation of the actual use of those swords by stating that those who take a sword are inclined to die by the sword shows that he intends us to read this consistent with Jesus’ steady emphasis that his followers are to be careful to “not resist evil,” and thus that it’s problematic to then read him as literally advocating a violent response to those who persecute or threaten us.


Thanks Bob.


You have addressed none of 3 defenses I offered. Plus, the Greek “hikanos” means “sufficient, adequate, large enough” and this word is not applied to the Gethsemane swordplay, as would be expected from your interpretation.


Berzerk, IMHO, my full response (now amended with numbers) answers and makes all your arguments irrelevant. And the consensus on “hikanos” is that it means “Enough!” and it’s widely observed that it was used to say I’ve heard “enough” of something foolish, and thus was Jesus’ way of rebuking the disciples’ typical tendency to take literally what was obviously contrary to the emphasis of his plain teaching. Thus I don’t see that your view engages at all my main argument against your interpretation.


The consensus of whom? Do you even own Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, the standard dictionary of Hellenistic Greek? It provides the standard meaning I mention, a meaning consistent with NT usage. I challenge you to identify a single NT usage that supports your claim.


Berzerk, Are you kidding? No Fuller grad would be caught dead without A & G! Or LOL, Bromiley’s Kittel to boot. The consensus I refer to is those panels of Greek translation scholars that need to agree on the correct meaning for their committee’s translation. If you doubt “enough,” google Biblegateway to see the consensus.

Could Jesus’ response also have literally meant that two swords is exactly the sufficient amount to protect his fellowship under the threats in that empire? Sure, but that would make me think Jesus had no idea what it would take for their safety to depend on their ‘large enough’ swordplay.


Bob, if ever you could walk outside your schooling, and look at the outside possibilities, you are a f-ing great warrior.


Well, my posts reflect that I have repeatedly repudiated and walked outside my schooling, regularly documenting here the fallacies I find in a ton of what I was taught.


Amen Brother


The letter from Aurelius above pretty much settles it in my mind that a number of Christian men were actual soldiers. If the idea of non-violence was being taught or exemplified at the time, I don’t find much in the way of evidence for it.
I don’t think there is a case to be made that Christian soldiers are disobeying Jesus.
We could say that no true Christian could be a soldier, but like the true Scotsman, that is bogus.


I was involved in the annual ‘Burns’ gathering in a very big city in a very big hotel, and those ‘pipe and drums’ were quite convincing, Very cool!


Dave, the Aurelius quote is interesting (though for me Jesus’ words are more pivotal than Aurelius’). I’m not a historian, but I’ve repeatedly heard pacifist types cite many early sources that Christians uniformly refused to kill, and that there is no exception to this during the early centuries. And in countless debates, I’d seen no one challenge that in the way you have. So this may be an exception, though I do note that even your article itself raised the question of whether this statement should be certified as true.

Yet especially fascinating to me in it were these supposed words of Aurelius:
Christians “began battle, not by preparing weapons, nor arms; for such preparation is hateful to them, on account of the God they bear about in their conscience.”
What do those words sound like to you?


What on earth does that mean? As a “true Scotsman” I have no idea whether to be offended or gratified.


Especially in light of the Crusades or this old chorus… “Onward, Christian soldiers marching as to war,…


If someone wants to contend that all Christian soldiers have been somehow denying Christ’s teaching, even though they are rendering unto Uncle Sam, let’s see your evidence
If you are saying that to be a ‘TRUE Christian’ one must be a pacifist, that’s nice.
I see one verse. What else do you have?


How about “Love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44, Lk. 6:27, 35)? I am certainly not talking about being passive against evil, but about our role in fighting it via prayer.

And, as I argued here: