Scott Redd’s lecture at the Christianity & National Security Conference, 2022.

Scott Redd discusses the Fall, common grace, and the Imago Dei.

Thank you, thank you Mark. You are too kind. Uh, and I think we are the most important… we say Protestant academic, is that we he said? Protestant Seminary. I think until he founds his Methodist Seminary, which will probably be soon but until then, uh, RTS is serving in the DC area training pastors and other Church leaders in the ministry of the Gospel. And one thing that we’ve noticed at RTS Washington is that while most of our students… it’s still about 60 of our students are going to the pastorate. We had this growing number of students who are coming out of the public square whether it’s in national security or in health care or education or legislation, and they were coming in with a desire to develop a Biblical confessional theology that deepened their understanding of what they were doing. 

Some of them were asking questions, just like, uh the… the ones that we’ve been asking this morning, you know what… what is moral injury? And how do we deal with that? How do we confront that? How does that relate to just war? What is the nature… nature of the state? And so we found ourselves as Old Testament professors and New Testament professors and systematic theologians having to answer those kinds of questions in a way that was not just theologically sound but also intellectually satisfying to the people asking them. 

So it’s become an interest of mine, uh, over the years. It was something that was kind of worn into me, I guess early on. My father was a career naval officer who went on to serve in the Bush Administration in a variety of capacities. Most importantly and finally, uh, the starting up of the National Counter-Terrorism Center out here near RTS Washington’s Campus. It’s actually part of a reason why we’re up here too is that we wanted to live close to my parents, but I grew up in a family where we were asking these kinds of questions. What does it mean to go to war? What does it mean to be interested in national security? How do we as Christians deal with issues like weapons of mass destruction or a war on terror or national interest on the battlefield and how it informs not only our foreign policy but how we operate on the battlefield? 

So those questions have been in the back of my mind even as I have pursued my studies which were at Catholic University in Semitic language and literature, which leads me into the field of Old Testament. So this discussion will be as a layman. I don’t come to you as an expert in foreign policy or in national security. I’m coming with a layman’s knowledge of those issues, and yet with a Biblical and confessional expertise, per se, in um, in how to maybe attach the teaching of Scripture to a lot of these issues that we’re addressing here over these days. Specifically, this will be talking about a theological rationale for the effort of national security. Not only is there a rationale for it, but how should national security function?  

And secondly, and maybe perhaps in the background of all this, what is the actual rationale for the state in general no matter what we’re talking about, whether it’s national security, foreign policy, law enforcement, you name it, from the negative things to the… the positive things that the state does. Is there a theological rationale that we can find in Scripture? And I’ll be drawing off of the reformed tradition. Now as I say that I also recognize that, um, the things that I’m going to be talking about here are not uniquely reformed, some of them may be, but these are definitely themes that are present in Christendom. We find them in Augustine, we find them in the ancient… the ancient doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” That’s an audacious claim to make that all blessings flow from God. Okay, and yet I’m going to talk about them as they are emphasized in the reformed tradition. Okay. So this will be a bit of a top-down exercise. We’re maybe going from being down in the valleys of the conversation to pulling up to more of a 30,000 foot purview.  

And so I want to start where all good conversations of theology start. I want to start in the Garden, and it’s in the Garden where God commissions Adam and Even to go fill the Earth and subdue it, and what’s interesting is that we might think, well they of course could then. They knew exactly what they were supposed to do. They were made in God’s image. They are… they… they know that their being founded in his personal and relational character, and so they must have known exactly what they ought to do in the Garden, and yet we actually find that that’s not the case, that God had to especially reveal Himself to them even before the Fall to explain how they ought to live. And one of the main things He does in addition to telling them that they need to rest like He rested. And they need to tend to the Garden, kind of filling out of His own creative manner of forming and filling the Earth. They should tend to the Garden. They should fill the Earth with images of God and subdue it. 

He also tells them that they should enjoy the Garden, that being in the Garden is the enjoyment of it. It’s interesting that God has to reveal to them that they ought to enjoy it. However, He says there is one fruit that they ought not to enjoy, that they not… they should not participate or partake in, and that is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, He’s very specific about what will happen when that takes place. He says in that day, if you eat of that fruit in that day, and then He uses actually in… in Genesis, there’s a very interesting Hebrew construction that’s used there. It’s an infinitive absolute plus the finite form of the verb, okay? For those of you, those of you Semiticists out there… Uh, and it… what it really translates to is something like this: “In that day,” as the King James says, “you will surely die.” The way we might say it today, we might say “In that day you will indeed die, you will in fact… that you will literally die in that day that you eat of the fruit.” 

And of course, this is the question that the serpent brings to Eve, isn’t it? He’s like, did He really say “die?” Is that what He said? Trying to remind her or trick her in terms of her own memory of what the Lord actually said. But what’s interesting about this for our discussion today is that, as we know, they do eat the fruit. They’re tempted by it. Their act is not merely one of hunger. They’re not starving. And so they need something to eat, but it’s a… one of seditiousness. They are rejecting the Lordship of God and establishing themselves as lords, as it were. Wanting to be like Him.  

But what’s surprising about the story is that when God arrives on the scene in the cool of the day, the afternoon, perhaps it would make sense to a Mediterranean audience, the afternoon when the breeze is coming off the Mediterranean Sea, and so when you go outside and enjoy the… the cool breeze, as the Lord is walking through the Garden in the cool of the day and He finds them and what’s happened? They’re now broken. They’re fragmented, right? They’re… They’re concealing themselves from one another with the fig leaves. They’re hiding from God. That’s what sin brings about: fragmentation, blaming, accusation, conflict. And yet, God does something really fascinating. It’s surprising He doesn’t kill them, even though He said “In that day when you reject me, the God of life, and you embrace death, in that day you will surely die.” But He doesn’t kill them. It‘s surprising, and I know for theologians, some theologians of the room, say yes, well, they spiritually died. Yeah, that’s true. But that’s not what Genesis says. Genesis said He said He would kill them, but He doesn’t kill them. Rather, He covers them. He covers over them and He handles their… He accommodates their shame. 

This idea that God doesn‘t kill us when He finds us, when we reject His life and embrace death, that He lets us live, not only does He let us live. He… He still sends us out with a similar calling to the one that we had before, to fill the Earth and subdue it, though now it’s under the burden of the curse. He feeds us. As the story goes, actually following the Fall, there’s this time of chaos and death that reigns and then we get this restatement of God’s grace to us after Noah’s flood where Naoh emerges on the scene after the flood, starting, in a way, a new Adam. And we see that because God tells Noah go, fill the Earth again, right? He gives him the same mandate that He gave to Adam and Eve. And yet this time, God establishes even more grace. He… He now says, now there will be night and dark, darkness and light in a way that you didn’t have before. There will be seasons. There will be heat and cold. There will be harvest in a way that wasn’t regulated before, actually begs the question: What was life like before the flood? 

He then goes to animals, and He says you’ll be held accountable for the things you do. That’s something people often miss, and the way a covenant includes animals. Okay. Until this… I had five daughters at home. Yes, five daughters and we have a dog. And we say, you know, we will sometimes joke, well Beau is our dog, our labrador retriever who’s a big adult. We say he is under the… Noahain Covenant. We have to remember that he’s a brother with us in that at least. Okay. But what is the Covenant for, uh, humans and animals together? And that is to honor human life, to… to have a stable creation that is operated and administered by God, but for the value for the benefit of humanity, you see in the reformed tradition, we play thi sup a lot. The fact that even though we rejected the God of life and embraced death, God shows us mercy. He shows us what’s called grace, or what I might… we might call in the Christian tradition common grace. 

That second we breathe after eating the fruit, that second that… that… that… that walk on the hill after the flood, you waking up this morning and enjoying that cup of coffee, all right, stretching, breathing, coming here and seeing other images of God that reflect His glory… that is all common grace. In the Calvinist tradition, Calvin calls this creation of a space of safety… He calls it the theater of God’s glory. He says without this, we don’t get to enjoy God’s glory, but this Earth being stabilized in human role in that of forming and filling it is a creation of a theater of God’s glory.  

Herman Bobink, the 19th and early 20th Century reformed theologian talks about common grace in this way. He says this now when God, in spite of the transgression, okay. So this is going back to that Garden right after the Fall, in spite of transgression, calls man, searches him out and sets enmity in place of the defunct relationship. A two… totally new element appears in His Revelation, namely compassion and mercy. Now notice, It’s not just a negative mercy. It’s not just that God doesn’t come to kill us, but it goes beyond that. “Life,” writes Bobink, “work, food, clothing come to Him no longer on the basis of an agreement or right granted in this Covenant of works that we find in the Garden. But now, through grace alone, as soon as you breathe that next breath as a fallen image bearer of the Lord, it’s God’s grace to you.” 

In the reformed tradition, this notion of common grace stands in the background of the operations of the state. This is, as is often stated, common grace is the fact that this is a grace that is felt by all humans. It’s grace, because we don’t deserve it. It’s common in the sense that it is felt and experienced by all humans. My pastor, who’s of Welsh descent, whenever he describes common grace, he uses this little Welsh fable that I love. He says “common grace is this: that rain falls on the just and the unjust fella’, but the just gets more wet because the unjust stole the just umbrella.” Okay. That’s common grace. But it’s more than that in the Calvinist tradition. And actually if you go back to Genesis 6, it’s like… says this here too. The Lord says because of, uh, the sin of humanity, God’s spirit is going to operate in the midst of humanity in a different way. 

“Common grace is not just God not killing us. It’s God’s spirit giving all of humanity the blessing of life,” he writes. God did not leave sin alone to do its destructive work. He could have, but he didn’t. He had, and after the Fall continued to have, a purpose for His creation. He interposed common grace between sin and creation, a grace that, while it does not inwardly renew in other words, this is not redemptive, it doesn’t make us all Christians or something like that, nevertheless restrains and compels all that is good and true has its origin in this grace, including the good we see in fallen man. The light still does shine in the darkness. The spirit of God makes its home and works in all of creation.  

So, what I want to point out here as we begin this discussion of national security is that the state is not offering… operating in some kind of penumbra of their Biblical faith. It’s not operating in some kind of other space when the Bible is only interested in how do you get saved. But rather God’s common grace to all of humanity extends not just to the fact that we breathe breath, that we enjoy relationships, that we have meals like this and enjoy conversation, but actually extends all the way to any restraining of evil in the world. This is the rationale that we have for the state.  

So you have to have this discussion about the state and national security in the background for the reformed thinker in the background or having in the background this notion of common grace. Now common grace doesn’t stand alone. It actually creates, as… as Calvin says, this theater in which salvation can take place. Noah always points to Abraham, right? You have to have a stage in which the redemptive work of God’s hold redemption can be worked out. If everyone’s not sure if day is going to come after night, how much less can we ponder the truths of redemption and salvation? So Noah doesn’t stand apart from redemptive history, but rather Noah creates the standard. He creates the stage. It’s a seed bed in which redemption can take place. 

So as we see the state properly, understanding its role of not only enforcing the law, keeping the peace, but going out and doing foreign policy in the world beyond its borders. The Christian involved in this effort must always be thinking about this. Is this extending… is this an example of manifestation of common grace, or is it not now, as we’re keeping that in the background, this is… that’s the overall category. Uh, if you’re having this discussion in the reformed camp. We can still kind of bear down a little bit more and unpack some of the elements of what this looks like. For instance, common grace is not just a free-for-all, right? It’s still happening under God’s divine kingship. And that’s an important part of understanding how common grace operates in the Bible and in the reformed tradition. 

Notice, for instance, God is the one who bestows all authority. Whether we’re talking about the authority of the Church, the authority and the individual Christian life, but also the authority of kings. The Apostle Paul is sampling this idea in Romans 13 when he talks of Caesar and says Caesar bears the power of the sword, but he gets the power of the sword from God. God gives him that power, and as you probably know, the Caesar he’s talking about is not some Christian brother who was elected after fair elections or something like that. This is a young Nero that he’s describing in Romans 13. He says even Nero, he doesn’t know how bad Nero is going to get, but even Nero, even Nero is bearing the authority that God gives him and will be held accountable to that authority. 

You remember the… the rationale for the Great Commission as God is sending us out to go proclaim the good news of His kingdom. As God is sending us, as Jesus is sending us out, what does he say? All authority in Heaven and on Earth have been given to me. How can he say that, unless the father has all authority in Heaven and on Earth, and how can he bestow it to Him in the Old Testament? The Psalmist articulates this in poetic form when he says the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of the world and all who dwell within it notice. It’s not just that the Lord reigns, though he does do that, but He owns it. It’s His. He relates to it as a Creator relates to his creation. That’s how Yahweh is different from Baal and Ashura and Tiamat and Marduk and all the others. Because He doesn’t build the Earth out of His own carcass or the carcass of someone else, but He makes the Earth out of nothing. He is distinct from it. He is Creator. The Earth is creation.  

So as we’re thinking about doing national security, we’re not talking about some kind of dualistic world that we’re going out into. We’re not talking about a kind of Yin/Yang environment where the good and the bad are constantly at odds. Like the brights and the… the light and the dark sides of the force or something like that. We’re just trying to keep the balance. We’re talking about people who are pushing for common grace under the authority of God who gives all authority in Heaven and on Earth, and to whom we will be held accountable, I think, about that.  

For those who are going out in armed service, you’re called to go out in and serve the country or to go out and fight and win the nation’s wars. That’s what our armed services are there for. And yeah, we also have to be asking that question, don’t we as we participate in that endeavor? Okay. Are we being forces for common good? Are we pushing back, as we might say, against the effects of the Fall? Now there’s more than that. It’s not just that God reigns over all the divine. Kingship is important, because everything else flows from that point. So in this stage, that is made by common grace. We recognize the features of this stage are God’s divine sovereignty, but not only that. 

The fact that He has actually made us in His own image, okay, He’s made humanity in His own image, He’s actually bestowed that kingly function that He has… He’s bestowed it to us as kind of vice regents as part of creation tending to creation. We see this again in Genesis 1. He… He comes and He sees creation as formless and void. Then what does He do? He… He forms it. He makes light and dark. He does waters above, waters below. Earth out of the waters, that’s forming. Then what does He do? He goes back to the light in the dark and now He fills them, sun and the moon, waters above get the birds, waters below get the fish, the land gets land animals. He’s forming and filling and then what does He do?  

He makes us in His image, man and woman, and says now go and do likewise. Be like Me. As a result, one of the interests of national security today operating in light of God’s common grace bestowed upon us through His divine kingship. We ought to also keep in mind that the work is never merely about the interest of the nation or national interest. That can’t be our only guiding function, but we have to recognize the dignity of all humanity that all humanity, whether a part of our national community or not, bear the dignity of the Creator. 

I think this does get articulated well in just war theory. This is the reason why we see war as a last resort. Now of course, as a paper we just heard raises some interesting questions about how we articulate that. And that’s very important. And yet, it’s in that Christian tradition, one of the greatest traditions or contributions that Christianity has to national security, that is just war theory. It’s even in that tradition that we see this hint, this… this underlying value that might not be clearly articulated but it’s nevertheless there. That the reason why we take these precautions is because every human right bears the dignity of the Creator. So God’s divine kingship is in the background of how we operate in the state, or should be. We’re called to this. It’s in the background of how we consider national security, as is His image that has been placed on all of us, so that we are it… we are in the image of God.  

Even the enemy on the battlefield is in the image of God. I actually think we have to take that into consideration when we’re talking about moral injury, isn’t it? The enemy on the battlefield is made in the image of God. And that both draws attention to their dignity and also draws attention to the tragedy of when that image is used fo evil ends. So divine kingship, image of God, and then thirdly, as I mentioned before, the actual authority of the government that is articulated throughout the scriptures. I have to be careful here, of course, because if I just go back to the Old Testament, to my… to my bailiwick, the Old Testament, and use Israe as an example, some of you, depending on your tradition, we’ll have to do some calculations in your head because you go, well, Israel’s the same as just a regular nation. How do we think about that?  

That’s a fair question from the reformed tradition. We think that. We spent a lot of time thinking, how does Israel relate to the other nations in the Old Testament? And yet we can see a couple of guidelines even in the Old Testament that guide us in the way that we ought to think about foreign policy. One of them comes out of Deuteronomy 20. We find Moses writing to the Israelites about how to operate and interact with lands outside of the Promised Land. I think we can all agree here. And so I’m going to set it aside. We can all agree that the Karem ban that Israel is called to perform in the… in the conquest where they’re supposed to wipe out all of the inhabitants of Canaan. We have to recognize that that’s not the way they’re supposed to operate around the rest of the world. And Moses is clear about that. If you’re not dealing with the lands within the Promised Land, that he actually gives… gives different stipulations that we see used when they’re going through Edom. We see it when they’re in Moab, and we see it when they’re talking about other lands going forward like Arum and the nations to the North.  

Deuteronomy 21:15. Moses makes it clear that diplomacy is supposed to lead the day, even if a nation aggresses against you. You should not go right out in battle, but you should try through diplomacy and persuasion to engage with them in some other way before engaging them in full battle. We also see throughout the prophets, not only is Israel called to account in the prophets, but each prophet whether It’s Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekial, or the 12 minor prophets all read together. They all have a section dealing with other nations, and if you go through those oracles against the nations, you’ll find similar themes rising up, themes… these are nations, obviously, that are outside of the land. These are themes that are not Israelite nations, and you’ll see calls for justice. You’ll see calls for, um, fairness. You’ll see a call away from corruption, that they’re supposed to engage with and care for God’s people.  

Those are the kind of terms that you see. Not to be arrogant, not to be self serving. Those are the elements that we draw out of the oracles against the nations and the prophets. So that again gives us this trajectory. It’s never merely about national interest. God gives all authority. He bestows all authority on the human governments, and yet he will also hold them accountable. As Christians we know this, and we ought to operate in that manner when we are serving in areas of national security or advising those who are. So we have divine kingship in the Scripture. We have the image of God in all of humanity, and we have the authority of Caesar that is bestowed by God and is a part of… All these are a part of this broader understanding of common grace, the way that we are to operate even outside of believing communities, even outside of the Church.  

I would add to that by the way, one other teaching that you are all familiar with and that is what Jesus refers to as the heart, the beating heart of the Mosaic Covenant which is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart. That’s your inner self, with all of yourself. That’s yourself, self right? That’s your body. That’s where you end, and then the world begins. But then Moses adds this other interesting thing that I don’t think we might expect. He says “and with all of your strength.” With all of your strength. It’s interesting when you look at ancient translations of that word which may or may not mean strength. When you look at the ancient translations of it in the Greek, and in the Targums, you notice that in the Greek they use words like dunamis, right? Kind of like, related to the word dynamite. You know? Kind of, your power. It’s not talking about your physical strength with us, talking about… it’s talking about your influence in the world. That the dunamis of, or the ischos is the other word that’s used in the Greek. 

The… the… the dunamis or the ischos of the… of the king is not like his individual personal strength, right? It’s his armies, it’s his wealth, it’s his battlements. It’s interesting in the Targums, which are Aramaic translations and commentaries on this verse. The way that they translate that word that we translate strength in the Old Testament, or excuse me, in the King James way they translate it is property use different words for it. One of the words actually used in one Targum is, um, Mammon, which some of you all know from your King James, Mammon. Your property, your stuff, your estate, your capital. Think about the implications of this Deuteronomy 6, known as the Sherma and Jewish congregations. It means that we’re supposed to love God with all of what we are on the inside, with all of who we are on the outside, but also with all of our influence, whether that’s finances, and we think about finances a lot, or intellectual capital, creative capital. 

Here’s Washington D. This is a city of political capital. All of your influence is to be used to the glory of God. If you find yourself in the armed services, if you find yourself in the State Department and National Security and the CIA and other intelligence agencies you’re operating in, WMD commissions trying to figure out what we did wrong and how can we get it right? You’re supposed to use all of that authority, all of those relationships, all of that expertise and know-how to the glory of the divine king who reigns over all and has made you in His image. So let me offer just three tentative pieces of advice for those who seek to be deeply Christian, theologically founded in the way in which they do and consider national security. 

First of all, I think we can do this. We can recognize, like, common grace or as an arm of common grace, national security and the work of the state to secure a body of people, a group of people that work is a work of common grace, and we ought to think about it as pushing against the effects of the Fall. We sh… ought to think about it as pushing against darkness and death and chaos. I remember as I was kind of in seminary, and getting ready to go on and do my PhD as right, as right, fall in the years following 9/11… This is a very clear aspect of national security. How do we deal with those who want to sow chaos and death in society? It’s very clear there how you’re pushing against the effects of the Fall.  

So as we look at national security, we have to think about that. Are we bring order, are we creating a place where flourishing can happen for humans? Or to use an Old Testament term, can we create or bring about a state of Shalom in the world around us? Now, some Christians might say no, we won’t get a state of Shalom until the new Heavens and new Earth. And that’s true. We will not get full complete Shalom until Christ’s return and yet we can say with Jeremiah’s letter to the refugees in Babylon back in Jeremiah 29, that one of our jobs as we’re living in these countries is to seek the Shalom of the countries in which we live. And Shalom doesn’t merely mean peace. It doesn’t mean the absence of violence of war.  

Shalom means something more along the lines of completion or fullness. Wholeness is a good term, so that people are realizing who they are and what they’ve been made to be. As we’re talking about questions about national security, we have to ask ourselves… not merely are we preserving our national interest, but are we doing it in a way that increases Shalom not only here but because of that universal doctrine of the image of God… that pesky doctrine not only here in our country but in the other countries in which we’re engaged? So we need to push back against the Fall. We need to recognize that national security, at its best, gives an expression or a means through which we can seek out Shalom in the world around us.  

And then lastly to go back to John Calvin’s point about the theater of God’s glory. Is national security creating a safe context in which sincere belief and faith and worship can take place? I don’t just mean a secure place in which the Church can operate, but a secure place in which a sincere faith can take place. I think national security has to always be… it had… keep in mind this notion of religious liberty. It’s not merely to establish formal Churches or government Churches around the world. That’s not our goals as Christians, even though of course we’ve got a dog in that fight, right? We… We’ve got… we’ve got some concerns about which God are you worshipping? We have to remember that throughout Scripture, we are not just called to have perfunctory or hypocritical or compulsory worship.  

We’re called to have sincere worship and sincere faith. And as we think about our national security, we have to ask the question: are we doing things that bring about a context in which freedom of conscience can flourish, in which believe can be held in a sincere way, in which the… the marketplace of ideas can be freely exercised? So I don’t think it’s wrong for us to have human rights and religious liberty as part of the way that we’re thinking about national security is even part of our national security platform or foreign policy platforms. So I put… I would give you those basic applications, push back against the Fall, bring about expressions or see national security and the work of the state as a function of, or a way to bring about Shalom. And then lastly, more specifically, ask ourselves, is this creating a safe context in which true and sincere worship can take place? 

All of this is happening against the context of the work of the Spirit that is common grace. The fact not only that God did not wipe us out when we rejected life, when we rejected His creatory status, but that He preserved us and blessed us. As we remember in the doxology, that He is the God from whom all blessings flow and that even means the blessings of enjoying a secure society like the one that we’re enjoying this afternoon. Thank you. I think we have time for some questions. Josiah? 

Question: Um, yes. I’m Jessica Hasbrouck from Karen University. Um, I appreciate kind of your framing of this topic within, um, the perspective of common grace. Um, one thing I’m particularly interested in is natural law, and especially how that’s situated within Protestantism and especially reformed theology, since that’s often pretty controversial in those circles. Um, so my question is, um, what do you see the… as the relationship between common grace and natural law, and how ought we to understand it when seeking to create and enforce laws? 

Answer: Right. That’s a great question, and of course natural law, as you rightly pointed out, natural law is a big part of, um, uh, you know, a current discussion on the Protestant side, in Catholic circles has been long accepted and exercised and yet it’s role in, kind of Protestant thought has been challenged. Um, I think we… I think there, in my, in our reformed circles, the ones that I operate in, that are primarily, you know, continental with a strong English reformation, Puritan influence in them, I’m quoting Bobinck and Kuiper, who are continental theologians, and yet Kuiper would refer to himself as a Puritan, okay? So you know, it’s hard to make those distinctions. Um, I would point out that even in those traditions, the reformed traditions that are maybe known for being for downplaying natural law, and when natural law would be… would be, uh, in the report, but in the reformed tradition, we call general revelation the… the fact that God’s fingerprints are seen throughout Creation, not just external to us but also internal in the fact of our image-bearing nature.  

So you think about Apostle Paul in Romans 1 saying, um, you know, we all know that God exists. All humans do. Even… even your most avid, uh, opponent and debater knows at some level that God is Creator, that God is Lord, and yet doesn’t acknowledge that. But then Paul actually goes on and says It’s not just within you. It’s actually outside of you as well, and that is that God’s invisible attributes, you know, what he says is really fascinating, he says the invisible attributes of the Godhead are appearance in Creation. In the reformed tradition, we call that general revelation. Um, you can call that natural law. You can call that a kind of natural theology. In other words, we can come to each other in this kind of ground of, uh, maybe we might call it a more neutral, objective ground of natural theology. 

Even when we’re dealing with non-Christians in our midst, the place where reformed folks will sometimes disagree. And this is where the hotness of the debate comes in at least in my area is… okay. So what’s the role of Scripture in that, or how does natural law actually show us, you know? And that’s where you get the language of general revelation can only be understood through the spectacles of special revelation. In other words, we can know something about God, we have reason. Um, it’s generally true across the world that parents love their children and children love their parents, okay. Except for when things are really going awry.  

But that’s kind of a generally human thing that would be all a part of what we might call natural law or natural theology. The glory of God being evident in the world around us, and yet the debate in the reformed world… world is what exactly is the role, then, of the Scripture in interpreting that natural law for us? And I think that’s… that’s a useful tension to keep in place as we’re having this discussion. We can go to one another, even on unbelievers, and say I both understand that you have a dignity and you have a sense about the world that goes beyond just, you… you know, your solidarity within the species, to kind of use Darwinistic language, right> 

You…. are in the image of God, and you in a sense have reason and all these other capacities as a result of that. And yet, I’m going to recognize the limitations of that that we’re going to come to different conclusions. We’re not going to end up in the same place, often because I am guided by what’s called special revelation, or that is, the teaching of Scripture. Okay. So natural law, I think, actually makes it possible for us to communicate beyond the faith as Christians, and at the same time we need to be humble and recognize the limitations of it and not be surprised when people who are deeply involved in… in observing creation end up in very different, uh, conclusions than we do. Bearers who are also fallen. I…  

I think this is talking about this with a class and just struck me again. This, so well, explains the situation we’re in. It’s the reason why you can find such beauty and meaning and depth in your fellow human and in their art and in relationships. And at the same time recognize this deep tragic loss in the middle of that. It explains the state of affairs in… in a really remarkable way that’s compelling to me, that’s a kind of emotional apologetic, by the way. Notice that it’s not a philosophical apologetic, just how I feel. But it’s an apologetic nonetheless. Another question. 

Question: Major with an intercultural ministry emphasis, so a lot of commissions type stuff. But I’m also an army, uh, cadet, so ROTC. Thank you, and yeah, I guess my question, I’m really excited to, like, pursue military stuff because It’s an opportunity to do… to bring common grace to people, but also within that, do bring redemption… redemptive grace, yes. Um, like this missional mindset, of, like, the global Church and what that looks like. So I’m wondering, like, you touched on a little bit but what is your… what are your thoughts on Christians being on the other side of this? Like for example, if we go to war with China knowing that there’s Chinese Christians, like, what are your… what are your thoughts? 

Answer: That is a hard question. And it’s… it’s one that I think, um, we have to write this… this actually gets to this interesting discussion y’all had in the previous paper about rightness and wrongness. I’d add another category of wisdom versus folly, and then the moral good and the moral evil, right or sin. Um, I’m not an ethicist, so I know that I don’t… I know that I’m gonna fall. I’m going to come in very unsatisfactory in answering those questions. But those are questions that I actually… as you were having this discussion, I was thinking, uh, there’s a lot to interrogate the Old Testament about in this, because there are a lot of situations that obtain, that raise certain questions about that.  

Um, I remember being in seminary and being in seminary in Orlando with chaplains who talk about coming off aircraft carriers during the Gulf War, where people were praying. Chaplains were praying at the end of the aircraft here and not too far at the end, because you get hit by the plane, but as the planes are taking off to go run sorties over Iraq, and we’re praying that the missions would be successful and the pilots will be protected. And fair enough, um, but we also knew at the time at least, the best intelligence indicated that there were Christians being used as human shields of those sites. And that’s a very diff…I think we have to first of all acknowledge that’s a very difficult and tragic situation. We have to recognize the evil of it. And this is where wisdom comes in. Not the evil of dropping the bombs. I’m not even saying that just the evil of that situation obtaining… Okay. 

I think sometimes as Christians we forget how deeply tragic the Fall really is, that it broke the world. So that things happen that are almost too terrible for us to imagine. Okay. And then we have to recognize the reason why, one of the reasons why they’re so hard to imagine is because of God’s common grace, that we don’t live in that state all the time. Um, I think those come down to wisdom questions. You have to ask those in terms of wisely applying, um, what are the results? What are the outcomes both looking at the teleology of what are the outcomes of the act? What does the Scripture clearly say about the act? What is it preserving versus not preserving? This is not just in that situation.  

It’s in any situation where an activity can bring… it’s like… it’s storming a bank when you know there are armed robbers inside and you’re not sure what’s going to happen when you go in. You have to recognize there’s a moral ambiguity to that, and its… it’s a terrible issue that takes a good bit of a lot of wisdom and counsel to handle. But I do think Christians have a space for this. God has ordained governments to be who they are, and we need to recognize that Caesars are at conflict from time to time.  

Okay. By the way, we’re not just… Paul’s totally disenfranchised from Caesar. He spoke about Caesar as… He’s a guy who’s out there. I have no dream of ever controlling him. We have a slightly different relationship here in the states, of course, because we all have this vote. We are the electorate. And so, we actually kind of are Caesar, but there’s also another Caeser where we’re like a… a molecule on the hand of Caeser, as it were. Um.  

So we have to think about this too, and yet we have to recognize that Caesars are in conflict, and we have to ask ourselves okay, am I obligated due to my role in the nation? And it’s a legitimate role in the nation. It’s a legitimate debate, it’s a legitimate fight. Am I obligated, then, to go out to war? And Christians might fight against each other in those contexts, and I think… I think the Scripture allows for that as a space and yet recognizes it as this is clearly a tragic… a tragic effect of the Fall. So I think we can hold those two intentions in answering that question. 

Thank you. Thank you.