My friend Karen sent me this article that really resonated with me, The Arrogance of Mutually Assured Destruction in the Church. It’s a pretty short post, so I’ll post it in its entirety;
During the Cold War between the United States of America and the former Soviet Union, the build up of nuclear arms became a standard practice. If one side built a weapon of mass destruction the other side countered with ever increasing numbers of more powerful and destructive weapons. The idea behind this proliferation was simple: if both sides knew that the other had weapons that could ensure total destruction, it functioned as a deterrent to go to war. This became known as the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). As long as either side continued to equal or escalate armaments “peace” was maintained through “strength.”
Looking back on the Cold War, there was a kind of arrogance in this “peace.” Each side wanted to show that it was better and more powerful than the other, and if war would break out, victory would be assured in the destruction of the enemy. Ironically as long as victory over the other was the implicit goal, no peace was achieved!
How often in the church do we seem to practice an arrogant doctrine of MAD, seeking for personal or theological victory rather than peace and reconciliation? How often would we prefer a build up of arms rather than humility and grace? How often do we promote a Cold War between doctrinal camps, between rival theological perspectives, even between members of our own churches and families rather than make every effort to keep the victory of unity and peace already won in Jesus? (Eph. 4:3, Col. 2:15) The gospel calls us to unity and peace, but this can only be achieved when we put down our arms and in the humility demonstrated by God in Jesus Christ reach out to our “enemies.” This can only be done when we give up our own victory and arrogant plans and embrace the humility of Christ found in the gospel. Without this self-denial and sacrificial step, there is no chance of peace and unity. However, with the humility of Jesus we can put down our armaments, repent, forgive, and find peace.
I’ve noticed this tendency. MAD is pretty prevalent, which the internet only amplifies. You pick a position, drive a stake in the ground and alert potential threats against it. There is a need for theological victory and prowess that demonstrates the spoils of war with the heads of others.
Now, Christians do need to stand for truth and be people of convictions. There is inconsistent and unChristian thought that always tries to worm its way into the church. But even then, sometimes we might sound the alarm too quickly. I’m also reminded that even in the midst of troubling thought, that Christ said he would build his church. God will always have faithful representation among his people.
As someone who has gone through doctrinal evolutions, wrestling with the Biblical texts, challenging presuppositions and asking hard questions, I can very well appreciate that often we don’t know all there is to know about a certain position. Even with firm conviction it does help to concede that there are possibilities we have not considered. I am often humbled when I discover that a position that I opposed had some foundational components I had not considered at the time. This is were learning from those who are wiser, smarter and more knowledgeable about a topic helps. Too often we fight with superficial understanding.
The Christian church has seen a whole lot of splintering over various issues, both big and small. Evolutions in doctrinal articulation and systems can bleed into others that at the surface we might oppose. But I often find that we can draw conclusions too swiftly, if nothing more than to appear on the side of who is right and avoiding those dastardly slippery slopes. When fear takes over a cold war of sorts is established and the rhetoric of the other sides “dangers” runs high.
But peacemakers have the heart to thaw the war, without conceding gospel conviction and Christian orthodoxy. Peacemakers will have discernment and know when hard lines need to be drawn but will not be hard people themselves. Peacemakers don’t give up Christian truth but approach disagreements and dissensions with an aim for reconciliation. When Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9), he was not referring to a lack of conflict or accepting inconsistent theology for the sake of unity. Rather, the statement refers to those who put the “Prince of Peace” at the center of whatever disagreement there might be. I like what D.A. Carson says in his commentary;
In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself if the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of the gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty ‘divide-and-conquer mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible…Those who undertake this work are acknowledged as God’s ‘sons’. Now it belongs to the heirs of the kingdom who, meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking and so reflect something of their heavenly Father’s character.
As Christians, we should aim to be peacemakers not war mongers, especially when there is deficient arsenal to destroy the other position.
Good post. Most of my theology follows the Calvinist tradition. However, I also attend (as a result of being a peacemaker with my wife) a church filled with those with an Arminian tradition. As long as the Prince of Peace is our focus, though, all other conflicts tend to be minor. Be careful, though, how often you use the word “evolution” in an article, or you may find some heavy ammunition aimed at you 🙂 Sadly, that seems to be the road many of our brethren have taken.