Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Christian Men Should Read Manvotionals from The Art of Manliness

I recently finsihed the book Manvotionals: Timelss Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues.  The book is edited by Brett and Kate McKay, the husband and wife team who head the Art of Manliness website, and is a collection of writings from history on seven virtues (Manliness, Courage, Industry, Resolution, Self-Reliance, Discipline, and Honor) all men should aspire to emulate.  Although the book is not specifically Christian and thus does not advocate a specifically Christian form of masculinity, I heartily recommend it for all Christian men. Here are four reasons why:

1. The book is interesting

With writings from the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchhill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Seneca the Roman philosopher, the book will pique the interest of anyone remotely interested in history.  It will also expose you to writers and sources across centuries you may have never heard of before.

2. The authors (both the McKays and the writers they chose to include in the book) understand that there exists a difference between men and women

In our age, when gender issues are controversial and much confusion abounds surrounding men and women, this paragraph from the introduction to the book is like a cold drink of water on a hot day:

Women and men strive for the same virtues, but often attain them and express them in different ways. The virtues will be lived and manifested differently in the lives of sisters, mothers, and wives than in brothers, husbands, and fathers.  Two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, will produce two different sounds (pg. 3)  

This understanding of manhood and womanhood is already closer to the biblical definition than many contemporary "Christian" definitions.

3. Even non-believers can know and recognize true virtue

In Romans 2:14-15, Paul says, "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts."  God's law is written on the heart of every person, believer or not.  Thus, even men who do not acknowledge God have some understanding of what true masculinity entails, and we can benefit from and be encouraged by their insights.  

4. Manvotionals is a good antidote to the feminization of Christian men

Jayber Crow's observation about spiritual life in the small town of Port William is all too true- the world of Church is the world of women.  Douglas Wilson has said that the Church is on a search and destroy mission for any masculinity in Christianity, with a goal to turn believing men into "buttercups for Jesus."  This ought not be.   Manvotionals, far from encouraging the base masculinity so often encountered in contemporary culture, shows that men can and should still be men - bold, honest, hard-working, disciplined men who subdue the earth God has made.  

A Caution

Although the book is an interesting and edifying read, I give one caution for Christians.  As with any writing or teaching, the writings in the book must be filtered through a biblical understanding of the world.  The ways of God are not the ways of man, and the wisdom of God often conflicts with the wisdom of man.  Keep this in mind while reading Manvotionals.  For instance, there is a quote from Cicero in the book, "Honor is the reward of virtue" (pg. 251).  Is this true?  Ultimately, yes.  True virtue consists of loving God and loving others, and that virtue will be rewarded by Christ in the end.  However, in a fallen world, honor is not always the reward for virtue.  Jesus was the most virtuous person to have ever lived, and we all know how that turned out for him.  So, ultimately, filtered through a biblical understanding of the world, Cicero's statement is true, but that is not what Cicero meant when he made the statement.  Read the book with some discernment, and it will be not only an interesting and fun read, but also an edifying one.    

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review of God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson

"Socrates once famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  In a similar vein, the unexamined holiday is not worth celebrating."
-Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry, pg. 87

A couple years ago or so, I decided to tailor my readings around Christimas time to include actual Christmas related readings.  Once the Christmas season rolled around this year, I put all (well, most) of my other readings on hold to read only Christmas related books.  That being the case, I recently finished reading Douglas Wilson's God Rest Ye Merry.  The book proved a great read for the holiday season, helping shape my theological understanding of Christmas and aid in my battle for an accurate perception of the season.

The book is divided into five parts.  The first section of the book contains theological reflections on the great mystery of the Christmas story- the incarnation.  This sets the tone for the entire book.  Wilson's understanding of Christmas is Christ centered.  The second section of the book deals with the political nature of the birth of Christ and how Christmas is still a political matter.  If you know much about Wilson, you'll know it's not suprising that his Christmas book contains a section on politics.  Like it or not, the first Christmas had a lot of political elements- it involved a king, dignitaries from a foreign land, and the never ending government of the Lord of the earth.  After this, Wilson moves onto Christmas and the Puritan tradition.  This section essentially boils down to an argument for celebrating Christmas, and celebrating it in a joyful manner as opposed to a solemn one.  The fourth section of the book tackles the "materialism" issue in Christmas, which, according to Wilson, isn't really an issue.  Without ignoring that it is possible to be too attached to the things of this world, Wilson argues that God became a man, a part of this material world, and therefore we ought not shun our material world, even at Christmas.  The last section of the book is a devotional for the Advent season.   As I had already committed myself to other Advent devotionals this year, Wilson's devotional portion of the book will sit on my bookshelf until next year.

I loved this book.  Wilson discusses aspects of Christmas that are seldom discussed by Christians and challenges some of the "received wisdom" about Christmas.  However, there is one overarching reason why I enjoyed and recommend this book- it is a weapon in the daily struggle against the flesh, a struggle that does not take a cease fire just because it's Christmas.  

I have to admit, I love Christmas, and not just because we celebrate the birth of the God of glory.  I also love all the festivities- the trees, the lights, the music, snow, a warm fireplace, Christmas cookies, family get togethers, all that stuff.  There are currently three types of eggnog in my refrigerator and, dare I say, several types of Christmas and winter beers (or at least there used to be, as I drank most of them already).  Of course, neither I nor Wilson think there is anything inherently wrong with enjoying these things (both the festivities and the beer).  My issue, and I suspect a lot of other people's issue, is making Christmas primarily about these things and not about the Creator and Sustainer of these things.  In Wilson's words (or, rather, word), my temptation is to make Christmas about "sentimentalism."  Sentimentalism is a problem because it creates false expectations, seeks to replace santification by the Holy Spirit, and ignores the main point of Christmas- the fact that we are sinners in a fallen world and that Christ entered into that fallen world to redeem us and make us holy.  It ultimately undermines the only true source of santification and joy.  Wilson puts it this way:

One of the reasons why so many families have so many tangles and scenes during the "holidays" is that everybody expects sentimentalism to fix everything magically.  But Christmas is not a "trouble-free" season.  We want the scrooges and grinches in our lives to be transformed by gentle snowfall, silver bells, beautifully arranged evergreens, hot cider, and carols being sung in the distance.  But what happens when you gather together with a bunch of other sinners, and all of them have artificially inflated expectations?  What could go wrong?  When confronted with the message of sentimentalism, we really do need somebody who will say, "Bah, humbug" (Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry, pg. 98)

This is my struggle, and one of the reasons it is a struggle for me is because what Wilson describes above is the non-Christian message of Christmas, and it permeates our culture.  It is there in our holiday songs and TV specials, sometimes overt and obvious and sometimes very subtle.  Fighting against this false understanding of Christmas will not come naturally.  If we go with the flow, sentimentalism will be our understanding of Christmas.  We need to be intentional in our fight for a correct understanding of Christmas, and we need some ammo to aid in our fight.  The primary reason I enjoyed this book, and why I recommend it to you, is that it aids in the battle to correctly understand Christmas and, by extension, all of life.  

The book is short, so if you order the Kindle version and you're a quick reader, you can buy it and have it read by the twenty-fifth.  Or, put it on your to-read list for next year.

Wilson blogs regularly at 



Friday, October 31, 2014

The Call of Christ and Spiritual Warfare

"The call of Christ, his baptism, sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil.  Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ's sake.  The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Ch. 4, Discipleship and the Cross)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Theology of Combat: The Police and Military as Common Grace

I usually try and obey the posted speed limit when I'm driving.  This is something I did even before I was a cop. Now, as anyone who drives the speed limit can tell you, this immediately makes you a nuisance to most of the other drivers on the road.  In my travels there is often a line of cars behind me, and I can feel their silent wrath as they sway to the left to see if it's finally clear to pass.  But an interesting thing happens while I'm at work and I trade in my personal vehicle for a squad car.  All of a sudden, (most of) my fellow drivers no longer feel the need to pass me because I'm going the speed the limit, even if there is more than one lane in our direction of travel.

Common Grace 

This is God's common grace in action, where the mere presence of authority and the possibility of punishment restrain law-breaking behavior.  Let's talk about this term 'common grace' for a minute, just in case you're unfamiliar with the idea.  Theologian John Murray defined common grace as "every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God" (quoted in John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief).  So common grace is the grace God gives to everyone, believer and unbeliever alike. It's not grace in the sense that their sins are being pardoned and they are reconciled to God, but it is grace in the sense that it is given by God and it is undeserved.  This would include things like food, rain, shelter, friends, family, and safety.    

Now, one of the neat things about God is that he is a God who uses means.  God could provide me with food in a miraculous way, like daily raining down bread from heaven or giving me a never ending basket of cheeseburgers to keep at my house for me and my family (which would be awesome). He could do that, but he doesn't.  He provides food for me and my family through the means of giving me a job, which provides us the resources to get food- food that did not just miraculously appear but was grown or killed by another human.

The Means of Safety 

Our safety is also a common grace from God.  None of us deserve to live peaceful lives (many don't).  I am aware, as John Piper says in Don't Waste Your Life, that safety is an illusion and that none of us are really safe.  However, by and large it is a grace to live in a stable, relatively safe environment as opposed to an unstable or war-torn one (I say by and large because living in an unstable environment may actually be a blessing, as it forces one to consider the important aspects of life).  

If safety is a common grace from God, then a country's law enforcement and military are the means of that grace.  God could provide protection and safety for people, believers and unbelievers alike, through some miraculous display of power.  The Bible records instances of this.  God brought Israel safely across the Red Sea and destroyed Pharaoh's army all by himself (Exodus 14).  When Ben-hadad laid siege to Samaria, it was God who drove the Syrians back from Israel (2 Kings 6-7).  In both these situations, no Israeli took up arms to defend his country.  But that is typically not God's style. Many other times, Israel had to engage in intense combat to defend her people and be obedient to her God.  More often than not, God works through the warrior, keeping a people safe through men who combat the foes of that people.

Police Work as God's Work                           

This means that when it is just and righteous, police and military work are God's common grace work in this world.  I don't mean this in a God, guns, and freedom sort of way, where the ideal Christian man is a good ol' boy who rides around with a shotgun in his truck and has replaced Scripture with the U.S. Constitution.  What I mean is that in every stable country, there are people whom God uses to keep the peace. Someone is needed to keep the citizens safe as they go about their daily lives, and someone is needed to keep a country safe from unjust aggressors.  God uses people to do this.  

For those of us in law enforcement and the military, as long as our wars and our actions are just, we are doing God's work on earth, providing a stable society where the gospel can be preached and believers can be discipled.  However, lest we be like another group of warriors whom God used to judge his people and ultimately faced judgement themselves (i.e. Assyria, see Isaiah ch. 10), this should not fill us with pride, but with a humble sense of responsibility, viewing our jobs as a ministry to the people we serve, providing help and safety to our people, for the glory of God.

For those who live under the protection of military and law enforcement, we should be thankful, if not to those who put on the uniform, then at least to the God who uses them.  I am all for thanking our military and police, but let us not trust "in the multitude of [our] warriors" (Hosea 10:13).  God had to continually remind Israel not to trust in military power, whether her own or another country's.  Regardless of how you feel about the military or police, be thankful they are there, and ultimately direct that thanks to the God of grace.

Other blogs in this series:

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Significance of Spiritual Warfare

For all that the movie The Hurt Locker got wrong, it did get at least one thing right.  At the end of the movie, the main character (played by Jeremy Renner), who had been recently deployed to a combat zone, stands in a grocery store cereal aisle.  The look on Renner's face, the emptiness of the store, and the dull music in the background all communicate one thing: picking out cereal seems massively trivial and inconsequential compared to defusing bombs in a war zone.  The next few scenes show Renner's character struggling to find meaning and joy in daily tasks: cleaning the gutters, making dinner with his wife, and playing with his son.   

I think this mindset can be fairly characteristic of returning veterans and even police officers.  The temptation is there, even if only slightly.  On deployment or on duty as a cop, the job takes first priority.  People's lives, yours and your friends', are on the line.  The work is serious and important, and the temptation is to think that this is real life, this is what really matters.  Our appetite and desire for the normal things in life can fall by the wayside as we think they are trivial and boring pursuits.  No one's life is on the line when our days revolve around grocery trips and mundane household chores, or so we think.
But the Bible describes a war far more dangerous than any American city street or insurgent held city- a spiritual warfare.  From the enmity between man and the snake (Gen. 3:15) to the snake's undoing in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10), the language of the Bible is the language of warfare.  The various biblical authors did not borrow ideas from physical combat to help explain the nature of spiritual warfare.  Rather, physical combat exists because spiritual combat exists.  Spiritual combat is the original; physical combat is the shadow of the deeper reality of spiritual combat.  

That being the case, spiritual warfare is much more worthy of our time and energy than physical combat.  There is a strong temptation and tendency for Christian police or military members to spend time and energy training and preparing for the latter while neglecting the former.  Here are three reasons not to do so:

Spiritual Combat Occurs Much More Frequently Than Physical Combat

I have been deployed to two different combat zones (Iraq and Afghanistan) as an infantry Marine, and not once did I pull the trigger in combat.  I never had to.  Other warriors have not had the same experience.  It is not that uncommon for contemporary warriors to have four or five combat tours of duty where they have been involved in serious fighting.  Modern warfare being what it is, this fighting can last for weeks or months at a time with little to no break.  However, no matter how long or intense one's combat experience may be, it pales in comparison to the longevity of their spiritual combat experience.  Spiritual combat is a certainty day in and day out.

The Enemies in Spiritual Combat are More Powerful Than Any Enemy in Physical Combat

The Taliban or that 6 foot 220 pounds of solid muscle criminal may be formidable opponents.  But (assuming you are on the right side of just combat), they are simply servants of a much more powerful master.  These earthly enemies follow and serve "the prince of the power of the air [the devil]" (Eph. 2:2).  How many police officers can subdue the criminal but are powerless against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11)?  Or how many subdue and arrest the criminal but fail to see that, in the ultimate spiritual war, they are fighting for the same side and serve the same master as the criminal?

In addition to the devil, who is constantly on the hunt for prey (1 Peter 5:8), spiritual combat has the added enemies of the world and the flesh.  We are essentially in enemy-held territory, as "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).  Obedience to Jesus puts us in conflict with the mindset of the world; the Word tells us in unambiguous terms there will be opposition (2 Timothy 3:12).  

Our flesh (the old, unspiritual person we were before being born again), in one sense, has been crucified and is dead (Col. 3:3; Romans 6:8).  In another sense, however, he remains alive, conspiring from the inside with the world and the devil to bring about our destruction.  Paul describes a vicious battle between the old and new man in Romans chapter 7, a battle every believer knows all too well.

The Stakes are Higher in Spiritual Combat

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).  What's at stake in physical combat is your life; with spiritual combat it is your soul.  What good does it do for the world and your soul if you arrest dangerous criminals but spend your career ignoring your family?  Who cares if you help liberate an oppressed country with military force if you never act in obedience to Christ, thereby showing the genuineness of your professed faith in him?  You may be an excellent warrior, able to accomplish your mission and stay alive at the "moment of truth," but it does no good if you lose your soul in the end.    

Part of the thrill and joy of being a warrior is that you feel you are a part of something meaningful, some cause greater than yourself.  You are fighting for your country or protecting your citizens.  This is absolutely a good and God-honoring passion, but it is a testament to the power of our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil) that we can be blind to the greater warfare occurring all around us.  Being a warrior is a honorable calling, but it should not be your main pursuit and passion in life.  Many a great warrior who fought for a righteous cause is in hell.  "His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love" (Psalm 147:10-11).  The Lord delights in those who fear him; let him be our main pursuit and passion in life.

Spiritual warfare does occur while doing your job as a warrior. Will we be brave or cowardly? Will we act honestly and justly?  Will we be lazy and turn a blind eye to evil?  Are we acting through faith in Christ or are we seeking human approval and glory?  However, spiritual warfare occurs much more often and can be much more intense in the everyday areas of our lives.  The Bible is full of stories about warriors and combat, but it teaches that our growth in godliness is more important than our combat effectiveness.  "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32).  It can take more strength not to grumble when you have to take out the trash than it takes to win a gunfight.  We should train extensively for combat, but let it not be our all-consuming passion.  There is a greater war and a greater cause out there.  Through the strength, freedom, and grace that Christ provides, let us fight the good fight of faith, knowing that because of the gospel, all things are ultimately working together for our eternal good.           



Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Theology of Combat: Why Combat Exists

A good place to start a theology of combat is to explore the reason combat exists.  Before we explore this question, however, let's briefly define what I mean by combat.  For my purposes, let's define (physical) combat in the following manner: an active, physical conflict between at least two individuals, where at least one of them is attempting to inflict death or great bodily harm on another.  This definition can encompass military and police work, as well as two regular Joes who get into a serious street fight.  Now, the reasons and motivations behind combat can be many.  People engaged in combat can have righteous or unrighteous motives.  However, all combat, from Cain and Abel to the present, whether between individuals or nations, has one thing in common - sin.  There has never been, nor will there ever be, a single instance of combat where sin was not the cause.  Simply put, combat exists because sin exists.  More specifically, I believe Scripture shows that combat exists because man is at war with God and man is at war with himself.  Let me explain in a little more detail.

Man is at War with God 

After creating Adam and Eve, and the rest of the world, God looks upon his creation and is pleased (Genesis 1:31).  Harmony exists between God and man and between man and man.  Adam and Eve are "both naked and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25).  This was our world pre-fall, a world with no combat.  In Genesis chapter three, we have our first instance of spiritual combat.  The serpent tempts Eve to disobey God and the harmony breaks, resulting in the world we live in today, a fallen world, one where death and combat exists.  After Adam and Eve disobey God, the Lord pronounces his judgement on the serpent, the man, and the woman.  

As the narrative of Genesis unfolds, we see just how much devastation and misery this broken harmony creates. The story of Abel's murder by Cain shows that it takes only one generation for combat (assuming Abel made an attempt to defend himself against Cain) to show up in God's creation.  This is not an isolated incident, as the Old Testament has countless examples of warfare and combat.  Combat has been a part of our human condition since the fall.  

The whole of Scripture testifies that after the fall, man has a natural propensity toward evil.  The New Testament describes the natural man's (natural man meaning the one who is not reconciled to God through faith in Jesus) relationship to God as one of warfare.  In the beginning of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes how man rejected God and the subsequent judgement God placed upon mankind.  Paul says man is "full of envy, murderstrife, deceit, maliciousness" (Romans 1:29, italics added).  Later in the letter, Paul says that, before reconciliation, believers are "enemies" of God (Romans 5:10) and that the mind of the unbeliever is "hostile to God" and cannot submit to God's law (Romans 8:7).  This propensity to evil may not manifest itself the same way in every person, but it is there in every human heart nonetheless.  It is this propensity to evil, in one or more of the parties involved, that accounts for why combat exists.

Man is at War with Himself    

There is also a war raging inside the heart of every man and woman.  In his epistle, James asks his audience, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?"  He answers, "Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel" (James 4:1-2).  Now, James most likely doesn't mean murder in the sense of taking human life.  He understands the term murder the same way Jesus does in Matthew 5:21.  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement."  What is Jesus' point?  James Montgomery Boice says, "Jesus teaches that men have broken the commandment [the sixth commandment, Exodus 20:13] even if they have only been angry with one another or called one another a fool" (Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 2007, pg. 91).  

Think of the sin of murder as being on a continuum.  It starts in the heart, with unrighteous anger, and may not have any outward manifestations, so that the only ones who know of the sin are the individual who harbors anger in the heart and God.  This sin can move along the continuum to outward actions in the form of angry words, slander, or, ultimately, murder.  The anger in the heart may not be as destructive as the murder itself, but it is still a violation of the sixth commandant that one should not commit murder.  

When we consider James 4:1-2 in light of Matthew 5:21-22, we see that the root cause of murder is unfulfilled desires.  James says that the cause of the quarreling and fighting among his audience was that that their passions were at war within them.  He calls this quarreling and fighting murder- a violation of the sixth commandment, which, based on Matthew 5:21-22, encompasses unjustified anger at your brother.  Thus, when someone violates the sixth commandment, be it anger in the heart or murder, the reason is that their passions are at war within them.  They "desire and do not have" and "covet and cannot obtain."  
This means that every situation a police officer encounters that involves conflict between people is most likely rooted in the fact that at least one party is desiring and not obtaining.  This is true whether it is an argument between a husband and wife that got a little too loud, or an active shooter storming through the halls of a school.  Be it conflict between individuals or nations, unfulfilled desire is the root and cause of human conflict, and thus the root and cause of combat.

God's Response: The Ministry of the Warrior 

Combat exists because man is at war with God and within himself.  This is the world we live in.  What is God's solution?  His primary and ultimate solution is the Gospel- God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for his enemies so they can be reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11) and gradually put to death their evil desires (Romans 8:13).  But this is not his only response.  There is a temporary response for this world.  Although I said above that all combat is rooted in sin, not everyone who engages in combat is sinning.  The conflict itself is borne out of someone's violation of the law of God, but others may willingly join in the conflict with righteous motives (in fact, as we will see, it may be sin not to join the conflict).  The next blog will look at the ministry of the warrior.

Other posts in this series:
A Theology of Combat: Introduction

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Theology of Combat: Introduction

I need to make a small caveat at the beginning of this post. This has nothing to do with the recent incident in Ferguson, MO, or the police shooting in St. Louis. However, in light of these events, I think I need to explain why I am thinking and writing about a theology of combat. I am a police officer. I am also a Christian. As such, I love Jesus, I love the Bible, I love reading, and I love theology. My desire as a police officer is to perform my job to the best of my ability, to the glory of God. My thinking about a theology of combat was born out of this desire. I have been thinking about this for a few months now (before Ferguson took place), and most of the Christian commentary on the police lately has strengthened my conviction that Christian police officers and soldiers need a theology of combat. It has also shown me that Christian leaders need a theology of combat for police work and military work if they are going to accurately discuss such issues and minister to those who have these jobs. I learn best and my thoughts are organized best if I write down what I am thinking about, thus this blog.

I recently finished the book On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace by retired Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman. To say the book is great is an understatement. Not only does Grossman provide important insights and wisdom for the modern day warrior (military and police officers), but the book is extremely inspirational. The book is full of stories from warriors who have fought overseas and here at home in America as peace officers. I found the experiences of those individuals both motivating and edifying. I would recommend the book to any military man or woman or to any police officer, and the book will most likely continue to be a treasured source of wisdom and truth for me throughout my career.

However, for those of us who have called on the name of Jesus and have been born again to a living hope, I think the book presents some problems. I do not know if Lt. Colonel Grossman is a Christian or not (reading between the lines in his book, I suspect that he is), but the book On Combat (and the warrior culture in general) contains a good deal of unbiblical thinking and humanistic philosophy. Intentional or not, the book seems to present the warrior life as a comprehensive worldview- a framework for interpreting all the realities of life. However much truth and wisdom a book contains, it has the potential to be harmful if it advocates any understanding of the world that does not correspond to ultimate reality, and the Scriptures present that ultimate reality. Given the popularity of the book and the genuine common grace wisdom it contains, this presents a problem, as there are many believing soldiers, Marines, and police officers who may pick up this book and read it. It's not the reading of the book that is the problem (as mentioned above, I heartily recommend the book), but the adoption of the unbiblical ideas contained therein that can cause spiritual harm to these Christian warriors. As John Piper says, "behind most wrong living is wrong thinking" (Future Grace, 2012, pg. 2).

My purpose here is not to criticize the book On Combat, but to the pose the question, how should we, as warriors in the modern age who believe in Christ, live a God centered, Christ exulting life in these professions? How should we think about our job, and specifically the combat portions of our job, in light of our larger biblical understanding of the world? Paul said that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." This is true of all believers, including those of us who serve as soldiers or police officers. However, those of us in these professions may have to literally wrestle with the flesh and blood and not just with the evil cosmic powers behind the actions of the flesh and blood. Paul says we are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and for us, this may include (legally justified) fist fights and gun fights. How should we think biblically about these things?

What we need is a theology of combat. I am not talking about a just war theory. Just war theory is for helping one decide whether or not a conflict is righteous in the first place. But after we have agreed that a conflict is righteous and have decided to participate in that conflict, either from a military standpoint or a peace officer standpoint, how should we think and feel and act in and about that combat in light of the truths of Scripture?