A Farewell To Mars

2014-05-30 13.22.04

A Farewell To Mars releases June 1. Here is a taste from chapter eight.
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A Farewell To Mars
Brian Zahnd

Isaiah, in his prophetic poems, frames the Messianic hope like this: A Prince of Peace will establish a new kind of government, a government characterized by ever-increasing peace. Weapons of war will be transformed into instruments of agriculture. Swords turned into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. Tanks turned into tractors, missile silos into grain silos. The study of war abandoned for learning the ways of the Lord. The cynic will laugh (for lack of imagination), but this is Isaiah’s vision. At last the nations will find their way out of the darkness of endless war into the light of God’s enduring peace. This is Isaiah’s hope. (see Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:1-7)

Christians take Isaiah’s hope and make a daring claim: Jesus is that Prince of Peace. Jesus is the one who makes Isaiah’s dreams come true. From the day of Pentecost to the present, this is what Christians have claimed. We claim it every Christmas. But then a doom-obsessed dispensationalist performs an eschatological sleight of hand and takes the hope away from us. On one hand, they admit that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who has come, but on the other hand, they say his peace is not for now … it’s only for when Jesus comes back again. Bait and switch. Yes, swords are to become plowshares … but not today. For now plowshares become swords; in our day, it’s war, war, war! They abuse Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century by always applying it to the latest contemporary geopolitical events. They replace the hope of peace with an anticipation of war! They find a way to make war a hopeful sign. Think about that for a moment! And here is the worst irony: It was precisely because Jerusalem failed to recognize Jesus as Isaiah’s Prince of Peace right there and then that Jerusalem rushed headlong into the war that ended with its own destruction!

End-time prophecy “experts” keep trying to force the same mistake on us in our day. We should refuse. I am a conscientious objector to the doom-obsessed, hyperviolent, war-must-come, pillage-the-Bible-for-the-worst-we-can-find eschatology of Hal Lindsey and his tribe. We must reject that kind of warmongering misinterpretation of Scripture. Jesus doesn’t call us to give a prophetic interpretation to the latest war and rumor of war. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers and lead the way out of the darkness of retributive violence into the light of Christian reconciliation.

Isaiah says that in the last days, the nations will come to Mount Zion and learn the peaceful ways of the Lord. That’s when weapons of war will become implements of agriculture. Well, let’s believe it! The Apostle Peter said on the day of Pentecost that the last days have arrived (Acts 2:14ff). The writer of Hebrews said that in Christ we have come to Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22ff). Obviously, with the passing of two thousand years, it should be clear that Peter didn’t mean the end of time was imminent; rather he meant exactly what Jesus himself had been saying — that the waiting was over, the time was fulfilled, and all that the prophets had foretold was coming to pass in the present. The writer of Hebrews means that what Isaiah and the other Hebrew prophets had described as the nations flowing to Mount Zion to learn the way of peace has been inaugurated with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Let me say it clearly: if you are waiting for something to happen before you beat your sword into a plowshare and your spear into a pruning hook, you can stop waiting! If you confess that Jesus is the Prince of Peace foretold by the prophets, you can start being a peacemaker — today! You don’t need to wait for anything else. You shouldn’t wait for anything else!

As followers of the Prince of Peace, are we ready to bid farewell to Mars? We must be. The god of war has had his day. His day ended on the first Easter. In his death and resurrection, Christ abolished war. Christ made it clear on the cross that war will no longer be the way the world is transformed. The cross exposes the use of violent force as a shameful practice to be renounced. Yes, Christ has abolished war. The King of Kings won his kingdom without war. Jesus proved there is another way. Jesus is the other way. The question “What are you willing to die for?” is not the same question as “What are you willing to kill for?” Jesus was willing to die for that which he was unwilling to kill for. Jesus won his kingdom by dying, not killing. Ruling the world by killing was buried with Christ. When Christ was raised on the third day, he did not resurrect war. With his resurrection the world is given a new trajectory, an eschatology toward peace.

War is a thing of the past. War is anachronistic. War is regression. War is a pledge of fealty to a bloody past. War is a sacrament offered to Mars. War is a repudiation of the Lordship of Christ. The followers of Christ must lead the way in imagining something better than war.

War as a legitimate means of shaping the world died with Christ on Good Friday. Jesus refuted the war option when he told Peter to put up his sword. Killing in order to liberate Jesus and his followers from the violent injustice of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate would have been a just war — but Jesus refused to engage in a just war. He chose instead to bear witness to the truth, forgive, and die. Jesus took the death of a world framed by war into his body and he and it both died together. Jesus was buried and with him was buried the old world devoted to sin and death. On the third day Jesus was raised and a new world was born.

Does everyone accept this? Of course not. That’s why the anachronism of war is still with us. But those who confess Christ has been raised are to embody the reign of Christ here and now. No more eschatological shenanigans where we keep pushing the reign of Christ off until we’ve waged a few more wars. No! The lion of Judah has overcome the beasts of empire, and he’s done so as a slaughtered lamb. Now we are called to follow the Lamb and give incarnation to his ways of peace. We who believe that Christ has risen have heard our Lord say, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). What Jesus did to embody the will of the Father on the cross was not just done on our behalf; it was also done as the way we are to follow. Jesus did not renounce the way of violence for the way of peace so that we could renounce the way of peace for the way of violence. The long dark night of mankind’s addiction to violence has come to an end. The new day of Messiah’s peace has dawned, and we are called to be children of the day. Do we dare?

BZ

  • Greenbean950

    Dear Pastor Zahnd, It’s great to read a fellow believer in Gospel nonviolence and the unconditional love (agape) of God. I’ve enjoyed your book, your journey, and your description of our Lord’s teaching. God bless you. It is difficult to find good resources outside of our Mennonite brothers. As a Catholic with many Protestant evangelical friends, my discussions on Gospel nonviolence profits from Catholic and Protestant evangelical sources. Reverend Charles Emmanuel McCarthy is a good source if you encounter Catholics in your ministries. Cheers, Sam Dean

  • Randy Starkey

    Merritt – Where do you get the idea that God has never killed anyone? It can’t come from Scripture. Take Ananias and Herod for example. He created life and He has every right to take it away.

  • Cecy torres

    I WILL buy this book SOON,
    I get exited.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    It is true the bible indicates God kills people on occasion. It also indicates God sends lying spirits from His throne on lying missions for Him. Neither is true. God is the source of life. Heaven is about life, not death. I don’t believe God killed Ananias either or Herod. There is no question that God has the ability to kill. You suggest God has the right to kill. Perhaps, but if God killed people for lying about how much they contributed to charity, He would be less than good all the time, just as if God were to send lying spirits to lie for Him, He would be less than good all the time. Perhaps the truth is God is less than good all the time and like us a mixture of good and evil. I simply do not believe that to be true.

  • Randy Starkey

    I agree God is good all the time. We disagree on the truth of Scripture and how that fits into God’s goodness. Context and having an eternal panorama make a big difference.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    What makes the big difference is the assumption that no matter what the bible says about God it must be true. If it says God murders women and children or orders the murder of women and childre and if it says God lies, it must be true, because that is what the bible says.

  • Randy Starkey

    Yes, that is the difference. It must be properly interpreted, for sure, but true, for sure. You have denied as true both OT and NT passages, which is your choice, but that approach to the Scriptures is not only not mainstream Christian historical belief, but I believe could end up in spiritual problems for you.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Jesus was not in the main stream. I am comfortable being where He was. Main stream is more often than not incorrect. I see more spiritual problems with trying to rationalize a lie into the truth that I see with honest approach to what the bible is actually teaching.

  • Randy Starkey

    But it’s simply your unanchored opinion. Something Jesus never did!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    What is it that Jesus never did? Lie? I agree and God did not lie either by sending lying spirits to deceive someone. First Kings

  • Randy Starkey

    No. What He never did was set aside major parts of the OT and NT like you do. He certainly interpreted them, but he said the Scripture cannot be broken. And He quoted from all over the OT. You break it as a matter of course to fit your humanistic version of love. To take inspiration seriosly, as well as sin and justice seriously (see Rev. 19), you can’t do that. As to the lying spirit I see that as a test and don’t see the big issue there.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    I realize you do not chose to see the big issue in God sending a decieving spirit to deceive a human being. Jesus quoting from the OT does not support your theology that Jesus believed the OT as we now have it was without error. When Jesus referred to scripture not being broken was He refering to the book of Enoch? Why not? One of the problems with the theology of no error in our king james bible is scripture is never defined in the bible. It is not at all clear in the bible what all scripture is.

  • Randy Starkey

    Merritt – I don’t ever read the KJV bible 🙂 There are many better manuscripts now than the ones the KJV was based on, and also that’s the way they talked in 1611 but not now :-). I read 20+ translations. And of course when we address inspiration we are talking about the original autographs.

    As to the book of Enoch etc. we are dealing with what we call the “canon”. The books that have come to be accepted as God’s written revelation to man. The canon was developed over time by the church. One definitely has to have some faith that God did it that way. That He guided the church in the choice of the books that belong in the canon. That it becomes the standard so to speak. I have no trouble believing that. Unless you have some sort of standard then mankind will simply believe anything they want. The Bible does not self-define itself in terms of the canon, you are correct. That’s where we have to trust God through the church. The Bible DOES self-define itself as to its inspiration and authority.

    Now, even with the Bible, when one adds the need now of interpretation, which is definitely needed, it can become almost comical at times :-), yet when taken seriously, we can come by the Holy Spirit to some agreements. This happens the same way the canon came to be, by the church hashing it out. I fully believe the church will ultimately come to a unity of the faith, but it will be closer to when Jesus returns, when the “bride” is ready so to speak.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    The canon was not endorsed by Jesus as being without error. The church, what ever that refers to, is also not free of error. Even with your assumed standard, you leave yourself free to believe anything you want. You have a problem with our believing anything we find to be reasonable. I do not.

  • Randy Starkey

    (quote) “The canon was not endorsed by Jesus as being without error. ”

    Of course it was. He said it cannot be broken. He used it to deal with the devil (Mt. 4). The OT canon was accepted by Jesus as the Law and the Prophets. I prefer infallible rather than without error, as there are minor discrepencies. But you can’t get around Jesus’s basic acceptance of the OT canon. There is no intellectual way with integrity to do it.

    (quote) “Even with your assumed standard, you leave yourself free to believe anything you want.”

    Hardly! I follow the same canon for the OT that Jesus did, and in the church age (the church is simply God’s people – not that hard to figure out) I follow the NT canon. Properly interpreted of course. But never set aside.

    These are really simple concepts, unless one is of course looking for ways around it and ways to justify one’s own theology of their own making. God has given us a “standard” to look to, that must be followed and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we choose not to follow that, if we think we know better than God, if we don’t want to work at interpretation, if we think we are more reasonable, etc. etc., so be it, but then we’ll have to take responsibility for that and for our human pride. To think that God would leave us with no standard (even the standard of Jesus is recorded within the Scriptures) is really humorous!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    The canon did not exist when He said it cannot be broken. It was not what Jesus was talking about. No you do not follow the same cannon that Jesus did. You follow a canon that was created by man hundreds of years after Jesus walked the earth. Yes the church is God’s people but that is not the group that decided on the cannon. That group included people who were not God’s people but just claimed to be. To suggest I am saying I know better than God is humorous. I am suggesting I know better than some men and I am suggesting I will own my own theology and not be ruled by some other man or group of men’s thoughts. I strongly doubt you follow the same group of men that created the cannon.

  • Randy Starkey

    Merritt – you are simply historically wrong. The entire canon of the *OT* existed in its entirety when Jesus lived and ministered. The NT canon came later. But via the same principles. Follow whatever you choose. I choose the simple logic of God has given us a canon and the life of Jesus, also recorded in that canon. It’s pretty simple. You want to march to your own drumbeat. So be it 🙂 We will both answer to God for our choices anyway. I’m heading out so will end it here. Cheers!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Did the entire cannon of the OT approved by God include the book of Enoch? Actually you are wrong on your history. The canon of the OT was not approved by the jews until after Jesus lived and died–around 100AD.

  • Randy Starkey

    It (the OT) was well accepted and used in all the synagogues of Jesus’ day. Official is perfunctory I’d say. Anyway, on the Book of Enoch, the answer is no. It is quoted in Jude, a canonical NT book, but that of course does not automatically make the entire Book of Enoch itself canonical. And it’s not accepted as such.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    But according to you since Jesus quoted from the OT that made the entire OT free of error. You are not consistent.

  • Randy Starkey

    Jesus did not quote from the Book of Enoch. Jude did, in the NT. Jude has been accepted as canonical, the Book of Enoch has not. Paul quoted from secular poets but their works are not canonical. But Paul’s are. So a quote doesn’t sanctify it’s whole source. Jesus quoting from the OT uses the phraseology “Scripture”. What he was referring to was the accepted canon of the law and prophets.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Enoch has not been accepted by some men as canonical. God has not spoken on the issue. I agree Enoch is filled with errors and not certified by God, just like the rest of the bible.

  • Randy Starkey

    Oh He’s spoken. One just has to have a humble heart and listen, as well as have some good logic. The Bible is not dictated, it’s inspired. It has some errors for sure, but they are not errors of truth. There is also more than enough agreement on the canon (total agreement is not necessary – there are always side issues) for one to understand God’s message to mankind. To have faith that God watched over that is really not hard if you believe in a supernatural God. I’m sure we will have to disagree on that Merritt, which is fine. We are each responsible for our own lives, beliefs, and decisions. Have a blessed day!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    I believe in a supernatural God that unlike you and I, never lies or does evil–never. It is an error of truth to day God sends a lying spirit to lie for Him. Your chosen faith in man’s creation of a cannon is simply your faith–certainly not mine.

  • Randy Starkey

    You simply misinterpret what the Scriptures are saying. To toss the whole Bible (or major parts of it) because you don’t understand what it’s saying, is pretty knee-jerk.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    You simply refuse to admit the Bible says God sent a lying spirit to lie for Him or you run off on rabbit trails of someone deserving to be lied to. I don’t toss the whole Bible and I don’t toss parts of it because I do not understand what it is saying. It is saying God lied. I understand that. I just don’t believe that.

  • Randy Starkey

    I don’t refuse to say that. I say the story says that. You simply misinterpret the *meaning* of the story. Ahab was evil. It was a parable representing the reality. Micaiah said he “saw”. It was a parable in a vision. Not God trying to *trick* Ahab. A prophetic snarky poke at the false prophets.

    Your PERSONAL theology of “love” is causing you to misinterpret many things in the Bible. I’m sure God never commanded any of Israel’s conquests, according to your theology, am I correct? And He didn’t deal with Ananias and Saphira. And Rev. 19 is symbolic when it comes to the deaths, and, and, and, and… You are failing to account for the reality of sin and evil and God’s dealings with it.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    You have my theology correct but it does not fail to account for the reality of sin and the consequences of sin which is spiritual not physical death, God deals with our spiritual death the way Jesus and Ezekiel taught. If we repent He restores our spiritual existence. Jesus said repent or perish and Ezekiel said the wicked who turn to righteous shall live and not die. That is victory over the consequences of sin which is death. I do believe most of Revelation is symbolic as is most of the bible because we have no point of reference but the physical realm to understand spiritual matters. However in Rev 19 the death is literally true, but it is not physical death. It is spiritual death. This is also true of Ezekiel 18. The death that God told Adam would occur the day he ate, was also not physical death, but Adam and Eve did literally die spiritually on the day they ate. God does literally love us.

  • Randy Starkey

    Physical death is the outworking of spiritual death. It’s why we have morgues. 🙂 Repentance of sin and faith in Jesus and His work on the cross certainly brings salvation and begins our spiritual restoration. Sin is best defined by the Bible. We will all die unles we are alive at Jesus’ return. however, we are promised a resurrection body, so physical death is also conquered by Jesus. The gospel is definitely “good news”! So, obviously, you have gotten some of your theology from the Bible, You just change/depart from aspects of it in ways I find unacceptable.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Everyone dies physically. Only the righteous live and do not die. Even they end up in morgues. Physical death is not the outworking of spiritual death. Spiritual death is the outworking of being unloving and unkind-sin. We are not promised a resurrected natural body. Physical death is not what was conquered by Jesus. I don’t deny Jesus was resurrected physically, but I deny Jesus remained physical or natural and I deny Jesus is presently physically located somewhere in the physical world. I also do not believe Jesus will return physically and give us all physical or natural bodies. We have both gotten our theology from the Bible and ignored parts of the bible that indicates differently. The good news is we have hope of life after death, a spiritual existence with God who is spirit. The good news is not the hope that I get back this same physical or natural body physically and get to reside on this earth.

  • Randy Starkey

    Your theology is definitely pretty unique to you. I wouldn’t agree with it, but we will both find out someday!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    I do own my own theology, but most of my theology can be traced to the first and second century. I do think James 3:2 is literal truth–we all have mistakes in our theology.

  • Randy Starkey

    Agree with first statement 🙂 Disagree with the 2nd statement, except perhaps the gnostic flavor 🙂

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    God being a spirit is not Gnostic, but bibical. I agree with very little gnostic teachings. Where do you see any agreement with gnostics? Do you not agree that annihilationism was an early teaching?

  • Randy Starkey

    “Physical death is not the outworking of spiritual death.”
    “I also do not believe Jesus will return physically”

    Both are gnostic.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    So you don’t have to reason about something–just pronounce it gnostic and that takes care of it.

  • The reasoning has already been done. Both of those statements are historically defined as gnostic. Unless you want to just set aside history and all accepted scholarship. Research it for yourself. You will find that to be true.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    So your view is the gnostic view is simply one thing and it has been declared that anything gnostic is wrong. Are you aware there were different gnostic beliefs on different issues? Do you take the position that nothing the gnostics believed was correct? Is God being a spirit gnostic? Is it wrong that God is a spirit? If it is wrong that physical death is not the out working of spiritual death, then spirit death is what leads to physical death. Is that your position? Are you aware that the gnostics were not the only ones who did not believe Jesus would return physically? All accepted scholarship does not agree with you. At least not all scholarship I would accept.

  • Merritt – the bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ is central to historical Christianity, and outside of that is considered heresy. That’s just historical church council reality. I’ll leave it to you to study all that and decide what you want to believe. I’m not able in my time frame to try to convince you, and probably couldn’t anyway, so just study it and decide for yourself.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Jesus was considered a heretic. I have little respect for your view of what is heresy and what is not. Nor do I care much what your view of historical church council reality is. I have already studied it and wrote my own commentary on Revelation. I do not see the Bible teaching the physical return of Jesus. You did not respond to the question about all the teachings of the Gnostics being the same and all of it being wrong. Is it Gnostic to say God is a spirit?

  • Merritt – I’ll leave it at this. Yes God is spirit. Jn 4. God is also incarnate in Jesus and He has a resurrection *body*. Trinity. 1 Jn and all 4 gospels. Now, every major stream of Christianity believes in the physical and visible and bodily return of Christ. If you know better than all of them, so be it. That’s up to you. I of course don’t think you do. Peace.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Not a physical body, but a spiritual body. 1 Cor 15. If you say God is a spirit, that is Gnostic so why is that not wrong?

  • Luke 24.38-43. Jesus said His resurrection body was physical. He ate fish! 1 Cor 15 contrasts natural and spiritual bodies, but BOTH are physical. Jesus said in Luke 24 “spirits don’t have FLESH AND BONES.” Flesh and bones is a physical body.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Jesus did not say it remained physical when He ascended to the Father who is spirit. Natural bodies are physical bodies but spiritual bodies are not physical bodies. And everyone through history has not agreed with you on this.

  • There is absolutely no indication in the Bible of Jesus’s body changing at the ascension. Spiritual bodies are physical still. The whole point of Jesus’s statements in Luke 24. And, He could still eat and walk through doors! The entire church (like complete major majority) has agreed on this through history. If you want to take a lonely path on that, it’s up to you of course. And, also, of course not “everyone” agrees. There have been aberrations, cults, and offshoots forever. Signing off! Peace.

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    Physical bodies are not the same as spiritual bodies. That is why Paul says we will not have natural bodies but physical ones. Jesus told Mary not to touch Him at one point because He had not yet been glorified. As you point out, He had a body that could go into a closed room without opening the window or door. Yes He was raised physically, but He did not remain that way and He is not now physically located somewhere waiting to return in that physical body. The ascension was not His going somewhere in His physical body. I know anyone who disagrees with you is an aberration, a lonely cultist, or offshoot, but your knowledge of history is lacking and your belief that everyone now and throughout history agrees with your view is wrong.

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  • Hi Brian: Awesome book! My best read of the year. Do you have a good source for me to buy 50 copies? Blessings DR

  • Hello, Darrell.

    I’m glad you liked the book.

    Sadly, Amazon is about as cheap as it goes. Which is what’s good and bad about Amazon.

    (I don’t have a large quantity of Mars.)

    Blessings,

    Brian Zahnd

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