Monday, April 25, 2011

The situation trumps the Scripture?

Several comments on recent posts regarding Christians serving in the military or using violence in self-defense revolved around a common motif. It comes down to “I know what Scripture says but what if someone were hurting your wife and kids?” or “What about Hitler, should we have just let him have his way with Europe?” In other words, “I get what you are saying but what about (insert a worst case scenario situation here)?”

The problem with these responses that I get consistently is that, while I understand and in many ways sympathize with them, they are approaching the issue from the wrong way. The way these responses approach the topic is to assume that we have the right or the ability to determine on our own when we can set aside Scripture because the situation warrants it.

Let’s look at some other Biblical commands and see how this looks…

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
Well, what if my kids are really hungry and we don’t have any money. Wouldn’t it be Ok to steal some food, just to get us by? God wouldn’t want me to let my kids go hungry, right?

Or how about…

“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)
Yeah, but we love one another and are going to get married anyway so a little sex before marriage isn’t that big of a deal! Besides we didn’t go “all the way” so it doesn’t count!

Those are somewhat extreme but no more so than the idea of killing someone for the sake of a nation or killing someone who threatens you or your family. Do you see how this becomes problematic? When we dictate terms to Scripture based on situations, we become the authority over Scripture. Scripture becomes a guidebook to be consulted but also to be ignored when the situation warrants, making every man an authority unto himself.

When we are faced with an express principle or command that is discomforting, we need to examine ourselves and see where the rebellion comes from and not leap to find a “what if” situation where we can justify setting Scripture aside. I am quite certain that when our personal beliefs conflict with Scripture, it is not God who is wrong. More often than not, our doubt comes from a lack of trust in what God has promised and that is never a good position to be in.


Chad said...

So I'm gonna file the self defense of my family under the heading of "Turning a sinner from the error of his way." After all, I'll "save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." Doin' the Lord's work.

Arthur Sido said...

Chad, as always my intent is just to get people to think through the issues.

Chad said...

Arthur. No offense taken. Hope my comment didn't come off that way. I'm a veteran of the web, so I've got a pretty thick skin. Your topic is certainly provocative, and I think that's great. It's not something I had thought too much about before, but it is a topic worthy of discussion and meditation. Thanks for bringing it up.

Debbie said...


I agree with you that nothing trumps Scripture. I think where we differ is how to interpret and apply it.

For example, we would agree that Scripture is clear that we are to care for widows and orphans. So we both believe it is important to feed, clothe, and shelter them, etc. But from your posts, it sounds like you'd say that if someone wants to come along and burn down the orphanage while they are asleep inside, or break in and abuse the orphans, we should let them. Is that what you mean? Or does caring for the orphans include protecting them from harm?

I specifically put this in a non-family context, as it makes it easier to not get emotions involved, but the principle would apply there, too. It also applies across the board to how we love others.

Please note that I haven't said anywhere that "deadly force" is appropriate. I'm not advocating killing anyone. But there are a whole lot of options for stopping someone from hurting the orphans without resorting to killing. I'm also not saying anything that negates the principle of laying down one's life for another. I just don't think I should require orphans to die because someone wants to hurt them.