ISIS, Holy War, and Apologetics (Part II)

In my previous post I argued that one of the keys to understanding Israel’s military and seemingly genocidal campaign against the Canaanites is to locate it in its proper historical context relative to the coming of Christ and the intrusion of the new creation which occurred at his resurrection. My contention is that the warfare of contemporary jihadist Islam bears some affinity to Israel’s conquest of Canaan because, largely through its defiance of Christ and the new creation, jihadist Islam is inextricably entrenched in the old creation.

Israel’s conquest of the Canaanites, in other words, is a mere chapter in a lengthy narrative that moves towards eschatological peace among nations and ultimately to the termination of war and violence. Already in the Old Testament one hears prophetic voices denouncing excessive violence and bloodshed (Ps 68:30) and lamenting life among war-hungry people (Ps 120).

Given the tradition in the Ancient Near East of communities rewarding conquering military captains with temples constructed to the gods who enabled their victories, it is striking that the privilege of building a temple is denied to David precisely because he was a man of violence and bloodshed (“You shall not build a house for my name, for you are a warrior and have shed blood,” 2 Chr 28:3; NRSV). Instead, the house for God would be constructed by “Shlomo,” a man of peace, in whose name “Shalom” is reflected. There is evidently something about the temple of God which is seemingly incompatible with war and bloodshed.

The Old Testament, moreover, includes the vision Isaiah sees of the coming Messianic kingdom, of an eschatological age when “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isa 2:4; cf. 9:2-7; 11:1-9).

Even though war was used an expression of God’s international sovereignty and as an instance of his historical justice, it is a dimension of the fallen world, the old creation, and will be transcended by peace.

The road to Canaan, in the words of Chris Wright, is “one small stretch along the road to Calvary.” At Canaan, God in his justice poured out his judgment on an evil community. I’m grateful that at Calvary God, in his mercy towards me, poured out his judgment for my sin on his Son.

Popular Posts