Holy War: Jesus Style
Last week marked the beginning of a 6 part series on "Defending the Faith" for the midweek study at New Covenant Presbyterian Church. While it is somewhat unconventional to deal with the issue of jihad and the Christian in a series on apologetics, I wanted to tie the reality of the herem warfare of the Old Testament to the Holy War in which the Christian is continually engaged. You can listen to my attempt to do so here. A robust Biblical Theology enables us to make sense of the herem warfare of Israel in the OT, while avoiding the danger of dissecting the Bible into two books. The cross is the epicenter of all the revelation of God in both the Old and New dispensations. The shadows and types are realized in the full light of the Person and work of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Christ are far more significant than we often realize. Vern Poythress' chapter on Holy War, in The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, includes some of the most outstanding biblical theological material on this subject. Poythress explains that herem warfare involved a judgment that can only be understood in light of the judgment of the cross. In the death of Jesus God judges His people. In the resurrection of Jesus, He brings them back to life. The cross is holy war. God was declaring holy war on His people by declaring holy war on Christ. The Father was destroying His people who were "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). It is not that God does not now command holy war, rather the war is being fought against the principalities and powers that were always the source of the wickedness of the nations God commanded Israel to conquer in he land.
The idea of purification in the eradication of the Canaanite inhabitants must be understood in the context of the biblical theology of the land. The Land was the dwelling place of God--a stepping stone to the restoration of Eden, and a prototype of the Temple. God dwelt with His people in the land. The temple needed to be cleansed before the Holy God could dwell there. Bill Wilder, in his thought-provoking lectures on Holy War and Israel's Conquest of Canaan (part 1 and part 2), skillfully draws out the biblical theological principles of the cleansing of the land. The New Covenant church engages in herem warfare no less than the Old Covenant church did, but the applications are certainly different. God the Father made war against the Son on the cross, and, in doing so, Christ won the holy war against the world, the flesh and the devil at Calvary. Jesus disarmed principalities and powers, so that now, we are not called to conquer the land of Israel with a sword--rather we are called to "Go into all the world and make disciples." When Jesus ascended on high He took captivity captive. We now share in His victory by plundering the evil one through evangelistic outreach.