A God of love and genocide? For many Christians the problem of violence in Scripture can result in a crisis of faith--especially when we see how such passages have been used throughout history to justify horrific bloodshed in God's name.
Moving beyond typical conservative and liberal approaches, which seek either to defend or whitewash over violence in the Bible, Derek Flood's Disarming Scripture takes a surprising and compelling approach: Learning to read the Bible like Jesus did.
In this inaugural CWRlive event, Brad Jersak, author of 'A More Christlike God,' interviewed Derek Flood in order to explore this creative approach which interprets biblical violence texts through Christlike eyes.
Andrew Sopko, For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love: the Theo-anthropology of Archbishop Lazar Puhalo (2nd edition), with a new foreword by Brad Jersak and historical biography by David Goa. 206 pages. $14.95
One of the most original thinkers in the Orthodox Church today, Archbishop Lazar is also one of the most thoroughly patristic in his theology. Known primarily as a "theologian of culture," his writings cover a vast array of subjects, from Patristic theology to neurobiology, from existentialism to feminism, and on to eschatology. Dr. Andrew Sopko has given us a concise overview and analysis of the Archbishop's under the label 'Theo-anthropology.' Archbishop Lazar is a hesychastic theologian and his works are of immense value as we begin our journey through the 21st century.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is, without doubt, the most prolific Orthodox theologian in Canada, and he is certainly one of the most prolific Orthodox theologians in North America. It is about time that Archbishop Lazar was given his due, and For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love does such a deed well.
The book is divided into eight sections: 1) Introduction: Orthodox Christianity and Culture 2) Christian Existentialism, 3)Gender as Prophecy, 4) Beyond Morality and Ethics, 5) Science and Theology as Empirical Quest, 6) The Aesthetics of Reality, 7) Last Things and 8) Epilogue: Church and/or World. In each of these probing chapters, Sopko carefully examines and explores how Lazar has engaged the world he lives in on a variety of key cultural issues.
The strength of For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love is the way Andrew Sopko has highlighted for the interested reader how and why Archbishop Lazar, as an Orthodox theologian, has engaged the culture he has lived in rather than retreating into an idealized past, an ethnic subculture or a reactionary and right of centre political theology.
Christian de Chergé was a French Catholic monk and the Trappist prior of the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria. With the rise of radical Islam in 1993, Father Chergé knew that his life was in danger. But instead of leaving Algeria, Father Chergé chose to stay and continue his witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. On May 24, 1996 Father Chergé was beheaded by Muslim radicals. Anticipating his death, Father Chergé had left a testament with his family to be read upon the event of his murder. The testament in part reads:
“If it should happen one day — and it could be today — that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity..."
The recent shoreline scene of orange-clad followers of Jesus kneeling before the severing power of metal still haunts me.The pure horror of that line of sword-wielding terrorists rips at the fabric of my faith. Where is justice? There must be vengeance! But as I think those thoughts, a question comes as if out of nowhere and at the same time as if out of everywhere. These are followers of Jesus. Who would Jesus behead if He had the chance?
But then I pause long enough to realize how absurd the picture becomes when the terrorists are replaced in my imagination with a vengeful Jesus grabbing one of their swords. As my emotions are still demanding “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and “hate your enemy”, Jesus dramatically drops the sword and speaks, “That’s what you’ve always heard. That’s what you’ve always thought. But I say to you…”
It had been some twenty years since I visited France, so when I was invited to the 33rd annual St. Just le Martel Cartoon Festival, I had to find a way to go. St. Just le Martel is a village east of Limoges, about four hours south of Paris by train. I traveled with four other American editorial cartoonists, plus spouses and significant others. Every year the village hosts hundreds of cartoonists, most from France, many from around the world. The entire town volunteers, with a sense of community that I have rarely seen elsewhere. A troop of chefs (French, of course) prepare amazing meals, served in a big tent by the village teenagers (with astonishingly cheerful, cooperative attitudes).
Many residents house cartoonists in their homes. My friend Steve Sack was hosted by one such retired couple, Irene and Michele. We spent hours in their living room one day, enjoying a delicious lunch and eroding the language barrier with a translation app on my iPhone.
The next day Michele asked if some of the Americans would like to visit the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where, in 1944, a company of German Waffen SS had massacred 642 inhabitants, because they had allegedly captured an SS officer. SS soldiers rounded up the residents, shot and burned the men, and burned the women and children alive in a church. Later, the SS discovered they had the wrong village. The grim details of this event can be found on the Internet at Wikipedia. Today, the preserved ruins of the village cover many acres, including a cemetery, an interpretive center and an underground memorial where the names of victims are etched in granite. Personal effects are displayed in glass cases. SPRING 2015 23 This was a neck-wrenching change from the high spirits of the cartoon festival. We walked the abandoned streets of the village in a daze. Crumbling buildings still display signs for dentists, bakeries, cafés and grocery stores. Burned-out hulks of 1930s and 40s cars sit exactly where they had in 1944. In the church, the rusty steel frame of a baby buggy melts into the stone floor.
My first thought was—how could God allow this to happen? Of course this was only a tiny sample of the atrocities and suffering that took place in World War II—and atrocities that continue today all around the world. My second thought was—what were the men of the Waffen SS thinking and feeling as they shot and incinerated the villagers?
Today I’m delighted to be reviewing Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem by Brad Jersak, published in 2009 by Wipf & Stock.
Hell is a subject which, in my experience at least, is not often openly spoken about in churches and among believers, but which nevertheless plays a vitally important role in the doctrinal apparatus of many Christians.
If I speak of a “hellfire and damnation” preacher, most people will immediately have a good idea of what I’m talking about and be able to form an associated mental picture. The thought of such a preacher might make many Christians squirm, but in the majority of cases, if those same Christians would stop and consider their most fundamental beliefs, they would have to admit that they and the hellfire preacher have much in common. The way they express those beliefs might differ drastically, but the basic message is the same: give your life to Jesus or burn in hell forever.
In fact, the belief in a hell of eternal, conscious torment for unbelievers is so deeply ingrained in the contemporary Christian psyche that to question its necessity is to run the risk of being seen as a doubter at best and a renegade or a heretic at worst. But is such a belief actually necessary to authentic Christian faith?
For those keen to explore the subject, there’s no shortage of books on hell, both old and more recent. Most either present and defend a clear pro- or anti-hell stance, while the occasional volume includes a range of differing views, usually set out by different scholars, and leaves the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. Her Gates Will Never Be Shut doesn’t really fall into either of those categories.