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Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series, Part 4

June 24, 2016

Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series

By Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.
President & Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics

Gordon-Conwell joins the global community in mourning and praying for the victims and families of the terrible tragedy that took place in Orlando on Sunday 6/12. The following is a seven-part series Courtesy of the C.S. Lewis Institute, www.cslewisinstitute.org, Knowing & Doing, Winter 2001.

Part 4 | Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: Justice, Not Revenge

 

Following the emotions of anger and fear, terrorism tends to breed an emotional response of revenge. This is a natural response, wanting to hit back, get even, and take out vengeance on the evildoers. Revenge is the innate desire to make the wrong right. It has roots in our created being. But as fallen creatures, that deep impulse becomes twisted, excessive and misguided. On the basis of emotional outrage, revenge often wants to strike back without principle or limitation. Largely originally triggered by the events of September 11, 2001, we’ve often heard the language of revenge in the form of contempt towards Muslims, Arabs, and people of middle-eastern descent. Even Arab Christians in the United States have had to fear for their lives. This is not helpful.

Alternatively, it would be more helpful to replace revenge with a need for justice. Even as Christians are called to a spirit of forgiveness that ultimately seeks restoration, it is appropriate that life in a fallen world calls for justice. A voice for justice in a world that seeks unrestrained vengeance is a voice for fairness, not just emotional outrage. Justice seeks to limit our passions and feelings and respond from principle and wisdom rather than just internal sentiments. Justice does not belong in personal hands and should be supported by evidence. The blindfold on “lady justice” has often symbolized the importance of ensuring that justice, not revenge, is our response to evil.

In a world without justice, revenge dominates and builds a history of injustice. It perpetuates more acts of violence, and the spiral begins – generation after generation – a reality we now know all too well throughout the world. The goal of justice is ultimately comforting as it calls for restoration and peace. Isaiah 32:17 says, for “The fruits of justice shall be peace,” (Isa. 32.17). Thus through the eyes of faith, our response should be justice, not revenge.

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Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series, Part 3

June 22, 2016

Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series

By Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.
President & Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics

Gordon-Conwell joins the global community in mourning and praying for the victims and families of the terrible tragedy that took place in Orlando on Sunday 6/12. The following is a seven-part series Courtesy of the C.S. Lewis Institute, www.cslewisinstitute.org, Knowing & Doing, Winter 2001.

Part 3 | Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: Hope, Not Fear

After anger, the next emotion many of us feel in response to terrorism is fear. As we experience and hear of more potential terrorist strategies, fear proliferates. After all, terrorism is the attempt to overthrow and control others by instilling intense fear or terror in the hearts and minds of people. Fear is an emotion of distress in response to impending danger, pain or evil. It helps enable us to become aware of these realities as well as respond to them. Fear is a natural emotion and one of God’s good gifts to us.
But fear also has great dangers. Most visibly - its sinister ability to immobilize and cause paralysis of action. It often prevents us from performing responsibilities and engaging new opportunities in life. Thus, there are parts of fear that need to be redeemed.
We might think that the antidote to fear is courage, since it is a classical cardinal virtue. But the more appropriate Christian response to fear is actually hope. While courage tends to reside within our own natural proclivities and self-discipline, hope is supernatural in its source and nature. For Christians, hope in perilous times is not ultimately in nation, military power, or our own ability to cope. Our hope is in a God who is ultimately in control. In the midst of terror and evil, Christians have hope because we believe God is nonetheless there turning human desecration into good. This is illustrated in Romans 8:28 which says, “We know that in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to his purposes.” Hope is a true reality because we can have confidence in the One beyond the immediate, finite and sinful realities of this world. Therefore, in a troubled dangerous world, it is that ultimate hope that motivates and sustains us.
Thus, if we look at the world from a natural lens of courage, due to human failure, there is reason to fear. But when we look at the world through a supernatural lens there is reason for hope. Psalm 27:1-3 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?... Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” Thus through the eyes of faith, our response should be hope, not fear.

 

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Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series, Part 2

June 20, 2016

Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series

By Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.
President & Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics

The following is part two of a seven-part series Courtesy of the C.S. Lewis Institute, www.cslewisinstitute.org, Knowing & Doing, Winter 2001.

Part 2 | Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: Righteous Indignation, not Unbridled Anger

Likely, one of our immediate reactions to terrorism is anger. When attacked physically or psychologically, resentment and belligerence often arise within us. Anger is a good gift, as it enables us to deal emotionally with violations, injustices, and evil that threatens our life and integrity. But anger is also fallen, and hence it can turn to unbridled anger that will eventually control us. In its fallen state, unbridled anger tends to build a pattern that imprisons us, one that won’t let go and perpetuates disgust, disrespect, and eventually violence. As Horace, the Roman poet put it, “Anger is a short madness.”

It’s because of the safeguard against the brutal impact of anger upon both the victim and the offender that the Bible provides this wise direction, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Ephesians 4:26). Thus our natural unbridled anger needs to be transformed into righteous indignation, a holy wrath with strong feelings directed towards the evil, sin and injustice perpetrated. Righteous indignation moves us beyond the uncontrollable outrage directed against individuals to a more principled anger focusing on the evil done. Such redeemed anger is perhaps akin to God’s own holy wrath, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Such anger arises from

God’s own holiness, sin and evil are direct contradictions to God’s own nature and actions.

A tension exists. And because terrorist events continue, such as the recent tragedies in Orlando, amidst mourning, this is a tension we must navigate on a daily basis. If we are not angered by acts of terrorism, we likely have little sense of either goodness or evil. But if we live in unbridled anger, we may succumb to the very evil that outrages us in the first place. Thus, as we continue to explore this topic, we remember the Lord calls for righteous indignation, not unbridled anger.

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Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series

June 15, 2016

Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: A Gordon-Conwell Blog Series

By Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.
President & Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics

Gordon-Conwell joins the global community in mourning and praying for the victims and families of the terrible tragedy that took place in Orlando this past Sunday. The following is a seven-part series Courtesy of the C.S. Lewis Institute, www.cslewisinstitute.org, Knowing & Doing, Winter 2001.

 

Part 1 | Terrorism Through the Eyes of Faith: An Introduction

The events of September 11, 2001 triggered a paradigm shift that brought terrorism to the dinner table. Within all of us, this shift produced a broad array of conflicting emotions that had to be dealt with. Since 2001 and through today, terrorism continues to sadly make its mark. We still struggle to know how to think, feel and respond to these attacks.

Of course as Christians it should not come as a total surprise, we know the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. The words of CS Lewis at the outbreak of World War II are applicable to the current situation: “The war [attack] creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice..... We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal” (The Weight of Glory, p. 23). But as Christians, despite a world view that predisposes us to understand such evil, we are still left reeling within ourselves.

As we think about our responses to the continued threat and impact of terrorism, it is helpful to recall that our emotions and cognitive processes are ultimately good gifts of God to help us navigate our way in the face of danger, evil and uncertainty within the world. But of course there’s a problem. We are fallen creatures, and thus our emotions and cognitive responses aren’t as God intended. While they are still fundamentally good gifts of God, they are twisted, distorted, and miss the mark of their original intention. As those redeemed by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we need to allow our emotions and thinking to also be transformed. Thus, terrorism through the eyes of faith needs a clear understanding of our natural emotions and thinking, in contrast to the redeemed perspective. Yes indeed, terrorism now battles for a seat at our dinner tables. In the coming days in this series, we will explore this reality together.

 

 

 

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Indeed. I believe that now, more than ever the Christian message of redemption through the cross of Christ must be proclaimed in its fullness. The rise of Islamic extremism has exposed the human depravity and continually poses questions in the mind of the skeptic and believer, questions only the cross can answer. I love the simplicity of language and clarity of writing.
Joseph Byamukama 2:41PM 06/24/16