Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prince of Peace: God of War

I watched the documentary "Prince of Peace: God of War" yesterday. It was clearly a low budget film - just 'talking heads', a few still photos and some simple text graphics - but it was interesting and thought-provoking enough to be quite watchable for its entire running time of just over an hour.

The film is basically various theologians on both sides of the debate giving their opinions on 'just war' theory. Just in case it wasn't clear from what they said, each time a new interviewee appeared it would give his (all the theologians were male) name, affiliation and say either "(Just War)" or "(Pacifist)" - although most of the time it was totally clear from what they said anyway.

At one point the film director / producer lets his bias be known when he describes himself as a 'moderate pacifist' (although he then goes on to say that interviewing all the 'just war' theorists made him a lot more pacifist than he had been at the outset; I suspect it will have the same influence on the viewer).

The most striking difference between the two sets of theologians was their point of reference. All the 'pacifist' theologians used Jesus as the basis of their position, all the 'just war' theologians used the Bible as their basis. This, once again, made me consider the way believers approach the bible - is the whole thing the equally valid Word of God, or is Jesus himself the Word of God and the bible merely the book that points to him?

Certainly if you start with Jesus, it is clear that violence and war is never the answer (even in the clearing of the temple story, the apparent violence was never directed at people, but only used to overturn tables and disperse livestock), whereas if you start with the bible (especially if you start at the start) then war and violence are apparently acceptable - and even commanded - in certain circumstances. I think I'll stick to the red letters...

The film does have a bias, but even given that, I still think the 'pacifists' come over a lot better than the 'just war' people. Fundamentally, the pacifists seem like nicer people and the just war folk come across as being a bit smug and arrogant. The worst instance of this comes in the 2nd last scene of the film when the just war proponent 'Dr Victor Shepherd' (Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, Canada) makes the following statement:
"I myself want to be a pacifist with all my heart, and I'm almost there, until once again I see film footage of a five year old, an eight year old, a nine year old, Jewish children huddled on a railway platform in eastern Europe, three days away from their execution [...] When they arrived in such places as [...] Auschwitz, their parents were gassed first and then their bodies were fed into crematoria. The children were fed live into crematoria. Now at this point I have to tell you my pacifism evaporates. I fail to understand how anybody could not intervene, for the sake of those children, regardless of what that intervention entailed in situations like that."
He then sat back with the most smug smile on his face that seemed to say "there, I've won, I've played the Nazi card and nothing can trump that...".

The final scene of the movie is a story told by Tony Campolo which absolutely does trump it. But you'll have to watch the film to find out what it was - unless I blog about it in a future posting.

But the attitude expressed seems to be this: Faced with the horror of the holocaust, there is no alternative but to resort to violence. Pacifists cannot intervene. There are no peaceful actions that can be taken. Things like that make me so angry I want to kill someone...

Sorry, but I don't buy it. As I say, Tony Campolo's story does trump it anyway, but even without that story, the message of Jesus remains clear: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, be willing to die but not to kill.

Anyway, its a thought provoking film and the issue really should be one that is talked about in Christian circles, but in my experience it never is properly addressed. Recommended.


Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.

Anonymous said...

Finally got round to watching this, after your recommendation. Cracking stuff and the closing trump statement you mention has tremendously challenged and influenced my faith and I found myself almost in tears in response.

Thanks for this!

Ricky Carvel said...

Only 'almost' in tears?

If you liked that, you should also have a listen to the current (as of April 2010) teaching series at The Meeting House:

www.themeetinghouse.ca (click on 'Teaching' - the series is called 'Inglorious Pastors')

Anonymous said...

I have crying issues, I haven't cried in 5 years and didn't cry when my grandparents died. Almost crying is as good as it gets ;)

Will check out the series, cheers.

Unknown said...

Hello to everyone. I have been seeking God the past 3 plus years...hard! This began in the obvious place, the Bible, reading it often.. often.. often starting in mid 2009 after an intense brokenness before God. I had been churched in my life, but saw things didn't line up that left me wondering why God allows church leaders to do what seems their getting away with doing. That's the short and skinny on a long story, I know we all have. Anyway, this led me to the study of ancient christianity, by this, I mean the writings sometimes called Ante Nicene Fathers. http://www.earlychristiandictionary.com/
Here's some in chronological order: Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian. I just covered from ~110AD to 250AD. What I learned from them is, yes, Christianity has taken quite a turn. The New Testament (NT) was written in peasant class greek called Koine. It is filled with the word LOGOS which means Word. Just as it is obvious in John 1 that Jesus is the Logos (Word), these early devout men often called Jesus the Logos. It also made me realize that the NT is often talking about Jesus when the epistles say the Word (Logos). I learned that all the appearances of God in the Old Testament were the pre-incarnate Jesus, i.e. the burning bush, the one who appeared to Joshua, to Isaiah, etc. Yes, the whole Bible points to AND is about Jesus. There was a TEMPORARY purpose in the OT where God used His Israelites to bring judgment on the disobedient godless nations in the Old Testament. NT books like 1 Corinthians 10 says so many of those accounts point to NT stuff (past and future) and now that the King, the Messiah (Christ from the greek), the Logos has come, he has laid down teachings and laws to govern us ALL; to help perfect us to become like God. Matt 25 depicts sheep (saved) and goats (condemned) of the submissive and obstinate respectfully. Read closely His sermons, as the early christians did, in Matt 5-7 and Luke 6 and do them. Pray for help, truth and guidance. God is faithful to the whole hearted seeker. These early christians took these very very seriously. Jesus said in John 14:15, 21, & 23 that those who love Him will in fact, OBEY and submit themselves to His commands and teachings. Pay close attention throughout the whole NT how it says the disobedient will be judged. This is all of us. Especially those who have confessed Jesus as Lord and call themselves Christians. If our actions becomes a stumbling block to others, Woa to us! Go outside and look up, and imagine God is that big. Jesus warns us to fear God. Unimaginable love to the submissive, but for what Christ is has done for us, Yikes to the unsubmissive! It is imperative that we shine, loving all mankind as He did, emitting the light that comes from obedience to His teachings #1, and His apostles secondly. This is how to find true peace and joy. Let's not complain; thank God in all things, both discipline and good times! God bless! Go to www.scrollpublishing.com to learn about them.