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Posts Tagged ‘Justin Martyr’


With the possibility of military action against Syria (an act of war though we are not declaring war), it seems like a good time to talk about war, and just war theory in particular. To do this, I’ll be drawing from John Frame in The Doctrine of the Christian Life. He covers war under the 6th commandment. (Other books you may want to consider are: War, Peace and Christianity- Questions and Answers from a Just-War Perspective, and Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition.)

First of all, we must recognize that war is a manifestation of the Fall brought about by Adam’s sin. People fight and war because they don’t have what they want (James 4). The roots of war are found in covetousness and bitterness. War itself is not just, but is brought about by sin directly or indirectly (seeking to redress the sin of another nation). For example, it was sin for Iraq to invade Kuwait. Their covetousness, our Saddam’s, drove them to do it. The coalition forces sought simply to end the unjust occupation of Kuwait.

As Christians, we need to remember that the kingdom of God is not advanced by the sword. This is one difference between Christianity and Islam. We seek conversions to spread the kingdom of God which is not of this world. It isn’t concerned with geo-political states. It transcends national boundaries. It is not advanced by “killing the heathens.” We recognize that holy war did take place in the time of the Old Testament. There it was an intrusion of God’s final judgment upon particular nations for their many grievous sins flowing out of their idolatry. Abraham couldn’t receive the Promised Land yet because their “sins were not yet full.” This anticipates the final “holy war” at the end of time which is initiated by Satan as he deceives and gathers the nations thru the 2 beasts he has invested with power as counterfeits to Christ and the Spirit.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be religious wars. The gospel can provoke a violent reaction from governments against their people (persecution) or other nations (war).

Scripture, as Frame notes, “respects the military vocation.” Citing John the Baptizer, repentant soldiers are not told to leave the military, but to serve well. Paul and the other Apostles never call for soldiers to leave their soldiering.

It is important for us to remember that no nation on earth is in a covenant relationship with God like Israel was in the Old Testament. No nation will therefore engage in a real holy war like they did. As a result, the rules for holy war in Deuteronomy 20 are not for us, being bound up in Israel’s unique covenant status with God.

Many believe the New Testament calls for pacifism. This is particularly true of the Anabaptist tradition. In their view, the state is necessarily evil, opposes God and as God’s people we are not to be allied to it, particularly in war.

“In the pacifist view, God permitted war during that time as a concession to Israel’s hardness of heart, as he then permitted divorce”

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While I was in seminary the topic of paedocommunion (infants receiving communion) was largely unaddressed. I may have overheard a conversation or two, but it was very much under the radar. During my time in the ARP, the subject was not even on the map. While candidating for a position in a PCA church in New Jersey, the retired minister who was their stated supply encouraged me to study this subject (and I thought “why?!”).

Now that I am in the PCA it is time. There are pastors who hold to this view, though they are not permitted to practice it. One of my elders read Children at the Lord’s Table? by Cornelius Venema so I decided to read it for myself.

“Though it is true that the church’s practice ought to be formed by the teaching of the Scriptures, which are the supreme standard for faith and practice, the Reformed churches read the Scriptures in the company of the whole church and may not ignore the lessons of history.”

The first argument for paedocommunion that Venema examines is the argument from church history. As noted above, sola scriptura is about our final authority regarding practice. Properly applied we also examine church history and historical theology to see how the church has thought and acted in the past. We recognize that the Spirit has been instructing the church in the meaning of the Scriptures for 2,000 years. We don’t start from scratch. But not all the church has thought or done has been in accord with the Scriptures.

Those arguing for infant communion assert an early and widespread practice of infant communion. They claim that the western church has departed from this practice and should return to the practice. Venema examines this claim first. He notes the ample early evidence for infant baptism (he depends upon Jeremias’ work). The evidence for infant communion is note nearly as strong or as early. The first clear statement affirming the practice of infant communion is from Cyprian in the middle of the 3rd century. Prior to this we find statements indicating the church did not practice infant communion. For instance, Justin Martyr (mid-2nd century) says that “no one is allowed to partake but the man (person) who believes that the things which we teach are true…” (First Apology). So the practice he was familiar with was communion after a period of instruction in the faith. Clement of Alexandria (150-219) also teaches that those who receive it have been instructed and receive it “by faith” in Instructor and The Stromata. In the east, Origen, also says that children were not given communion in his Homilies on the Book of Judges.

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