Tag Archives: war

Why asceticism? “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training . . .”


running the race beating the body

Another bit from the monasticism chapter of the forthcoming Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C S Lewis:

The concept of askesis came from the pagan philosophers, but it is thoroughly supported in Scripture. It is like the discipline of an athlete who, in the words of the Apostle Paul, must “beat his body”—endure some pain and deprivation—if he is to use that body to excel. Following from the phrase in the title of this post: I Cor 9:26-27 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

If we are to excel spiritually, the church has always known, we must practice certain disciplines that keep our physical, emotional, and intellectual lives in check; some of these disciplines actually involve denying ourselves some of the good, God-given pleasures we might otherwise enjoy in those realms. Christians through the centuries have practiced such self-denial not as an end in itself, but in the interest of that higher goal of union with God.

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Another layer of the onion: “Imperial accommodation”–all bad?


Cover of "Christ and Culture"

I'm a "Christ above culture" guy, but that doesn't mean I ignore the evils of a culture-accommodated Christianity

Reader David responded to the post with the following:

While I agree that Constantine is not the whole story of the development of Christendom.  In my understanding, he is but one step – a formative one –  in a longer slide toward Christendom (which is not the same as saying “perfect before/all bad after.” I think we need to at least characterize this shift as my friend Alan Kreider does from the imperial accommodation of Christianity (Constantine) to imperial adoption of Christianity (Theodosius). There is a  difference between declaring religious tolerance of Christianity and making it the Imperial religion.

To me, this is an important distinction. As I responded initially to David: Continue reading

Resources for Radical Living: The book and course, version 2.0–the revised case studies


This is the third in a series of posts on the Resources for Radical Living course(s) and book by Mark Van Steenwyk and me (Chris Armstrong). The first post presented the original version of the course. The second presented the revised structure of the course and book.

This third post presents the revised list of case studies.

Even more important, this post asks you, dear readers, to comment on these case studies and suggest any primary or secondary readings that you think will help Mark and me as we work on these new case studies and our students as they plunge into this challenging area of “radical Christian living.” Continue reading

Has the Christian church really been historically pacifist?


As Mark van Steenwyk and I have prepared to teach both a Masters and a DMin version of our “Resources for Radical Living” course this coming winter, we have reconfigured the course significantly. Among the changes will be the figures and movements we deal with under the heading of “the prophetic life.” There we hope to deal with two public issues that continue to challenge Christians today: the problem of the poor and the problem of war.

Thus it is with interest that I read today George Weigel insisting that for some time now, following the late great Luther scholar Roland Bainton, we have been “Getting History Wrong on Just War”. Continue reading

Crusades and Inquisition: Part of a pattern of Christian violence?


Following up on my recent book note about a current bestseller on the Crusades, here are some further thoughts on that horrible episode of Christian history, as well as that other horrible episode, the Inquisition(s), from a 2003 article triggered by the capture of abortion clinic (and Olympics) bomber Eric Rudolph.

I’ve also added, at the end of this piece, a note by Ted Olsen on how the Inquisition, though atrocious, was not the wholesale bloodbath portrayed in modern anti-Christian rhetoric:

Did Eric Rudolph Act in a “Tradition of Christian Terror”?
A historian considers the evidence of the Crusades and the Inquisition.
Chris Armstrong

The specter of the “Christian terrorist” presented by the recent capture of accused bomber Eric Rudolph has raised again the old charge of the skeptic: “Why should we be surprised when Christians kill people? They’ve always done so. Church history itself is the best advertisement against the church.”

Christianity’s opponents love to use church-historical examples to “prove” that violence is inherent to the Christian church. The favorites are the Crusades and the Inquisitions. The critics ask: Don’t such violent blots on the church prove Christians have never followed their Lord’s loving, non-violent lead and obeyed the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill”? Continue reading

Top ten reasons to read Christian history


I wrote this a while back–before entering my position as Associate Professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul. At that time, the Iraq war was still new news rather than old news. But some news never gets old–that’s church history. And I decided to offer the best ten reasons I could think of to immerse ourselves in that news:

Top Ten Reasons to Read Christian History
War’s reports deluge us every hour. Why should we read the “old news” of Christian history?
by Chris Armstrong

In a time of war, everything seems to hinge on The Now. But more than ever, it is really a time when we must be in touch with our history—especially, our sacred history.

But why? Continue reading

“Why does God allow war?” A Veterans Day reflection on the life and preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones


Cover of "Why Does God Allow War?"

The following article first appeared in Leadership Journal.

Waiting for the Bombs
How a young pastor braced his people in the fear-filled days before London’s Blitz.
Chris Armstrong

On September 7, 1940, just over a year after Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand had declared war on the aggressive German state, the first bombs fell on London. War correspondent Ernie Pyle would later describe “the fury of the nightly attacks—the boom, crump, crump, crump, of heavy bombs at their work of tearing buildings apart… . London stabbed with great fires, shaken by explosions, its dark regions along the Thames sparkling with the pin points of white-hot bombs, all of it roofed over with a ceiling of pink that held bursting shells, … flares and the grind of vicious engines.”

Before the bombs, however, came an agonizing year of waiting.

Throughout the fall and winter of 1939, and then the spring of 1940, Britons were shadowed by an acute sense of vulnerability. They could see the awesome power of the German war machine. They knew that it did not spare cities full of civilians.

At a large church in central London, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, a young, newly-installed minister faced the greatest preaching challenge of his life. In the silence before the bombs fell, he must prepare his congregation for war. His opportunity for ministry lay not in the aftermath of crisis, but in the moments prior to it. He had to address a fearful people’s most troubling question: Why does God allow war? Continue reading