Had a matrix download this morning, while dressing for work and playing with the kids. I gather my subconscious has now had sufficient time to process the Bonhoeffer 4 conversation last week over at NeoBaptist, and now insights are bubbling to the surface. Phase change.
Here are some of the threads:
Suggestions that pacifists don’t take the Old Testament seriously enough drew out the fact that my theology of war and peace is deeply eschatological, that I do not see pacifist ethics as timeless, but rather, that I see them far more climactically and post-resurrectional.
It also drew out that I see the state as Babylon, not Jerusalem, and draw a much stronger distinction between the church and state than Christendom-defending Christians are comfortable with.
And of course it highlighted that I see read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, that my understanding of Christian interpretation is deeply Christo-centric.
This got we wondering about rival eschatologies, like dispensationalism. I recently read a suggestion that dispensationalists read the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament, that they are much more Israel-centric, in complete reversal to me.
I recalled that dispensationalists draw a strong distinction between Israel and the church, that they saw a eschatological role for the state of Israel that rivalled that of the church, and this fed back into how they interpreted state-church issues.
I realised that their much publicised literalism was not monolithic but deeply Israel-centric. They are as figurative as amillenialists in their own way, but in rival ways. They’re figurative about New Testament ethics but literal about Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel.
And it hit me: Christian pacifism, at least the sort of Christian pacifism that takes the Old Testament seriously, may rest on an eschatological understanding of the church as the new Israel that is deeply antimical to dispensationalists. It may be that dispensationalists have no way to embrace pacifism and stay dispensationalists. Could it be that Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists are right in a way? That the brand of Christianity they know, dispensationalism, IS intrinsically violent? If true this could have deep implications for future conversations.