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“Thank God for the New Zealand Anti Terrorist Squad” Published

October 6th, 2016 by Matt

At last years the conference of the American Academy of Religion I participated in a panel discussion on the topic “Just War as Deterrence Against Terrorism”.

The papers from this symposium have now been published in issue 18: 21 of Philosophia Christi

The abstract to my article “Thank God for the New Zealand Anti-Terrorist Squad” is as follows:

On November 14 1990 David Gray’s 22 hour shooting spree ended when the New Zealand Anti-terrorist squad (ATS) shot Gray dead. In this paper I argue that Christians should support the existence of state agencies like the ATS who are authorized to use lethal force. Alongside the duty we as Christians have to love our neighbors, live at peace with others and to not repay evil for evil, God has authorized the government to use force when necessary to uphold a just peace within the geographical area over which it has jurisdiction.

This panel involved contributions from  Paul Copan, Myles Werntz, Gregory Boyd, Keith Pavlischek, and J. Daryl Charles and consquently contained an interesting mix of pacifists and just war theorists.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • Are you approaching the issue philosophically or exegetically?

    As far as I understand the position you have gotten to it is that you believe exegetically that the Christian position is in favour of a legitimate coercive authority, the state, and that there is some Christian teaching or doctrine about its role. And then you want to fill in the nature and extent and limitations of that role on the basis of some philosophical development work and some work on different applications for the present time.

    However, the exegetical case for the state as a legitimate coercive authority is where the problem lies, rather than in the philosphical development work assuming the case is granted exegetically.

    Are you open to re-consider the exegetical case for the state? The principal texts on which the exegetical case for the state such as Romans 13 and Mat 22 cannot bear the weight of the state.

  • Why do you consider that the Anti-terrorist squad is a state agency that is authorised to use lethal force?

  • I don’t have access to the paper so forgive me if you cover this subject in it however I am curious about your take on one specific subject:

    “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong…” Romans 13:2-3

    I assume that verse 3 puts verse 2 in the context of a just ruler. An unjust ruler who “holds terror” for those who do right would therefore be an illegitimate one and rebelling against them wouldn’t be rebelling against God. Am I correct in your assessment? If so, at what point does a ruler become unjust?

  • Anthony May wrote:
    ‘“Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong…” Romans 13:2-3

    I assume that verse 3 puts verse 2 in the context of a just ruler. An unjust ruler who “holds terror” for those who do right would therefore be an illegitimate one and rebelling against them wouldn’t be rebelling against God. Am I correct in your assessment? If so, at what point does a ruler become unjust?’

    Why not look at the actual context of the passage rather than inventing or assuming your own? The context has nothing to do with just or unjust rulers, legitimate or otherwise.

    Ask yourself, what problem was being addressed, at this point in the book of Romans, and why does the book at this point turn to the ‘governing authorities’?

    What problem do the ‘governing authorities’ address, contextually?

    who are the characters, the players; we have the ‘governing authorities’ the rebels/evil-doers, and the saints, or are there other roles, and who, specifically are the people or nations or empires being referred to in the text?

    Ask yourself who, in particular, are the ‘those who’ in verse 2?

    Specifically who are the ‘governing authorities’, in the context?

    Where specifically, in the Torah, did God institute the then present ‘governing authorities’ as his agent of wrath?

    what were those who were to suffer the wrath guilty of that earned them the wrath to be dispensed by the agent of wrath? Just rebellion, or other evils too? Did they persecute the saints? kill the prophets? kill their messiah?

    Why was the rebellion to occur, and what were the grievances, issues or motivation for the rebellion?

    What are the parameters, context and significance of the Torah’s institution of the agent of wrath, and what was their covenantal and eschatological context?

    When and where would the rebellion occur, and when and how would the agent of wrath repay the evil-doing rebel forces?

    Are these not the proper questions we should ask to identify the meaning and significance and teaching of the passage?

    And back to your question, why should we read in some qualification about the justness of the ruler in the promise that the ruler holds no terror for those who do right? Clearly, in a general sense, those who do right have much to fear from those who exercise coercive authority. To approach the problem of the failure of the promise, in a general sense, by implying a qualification of justness of the ruler is not a particularly satisfactory solution. It makes it virtually a tautology, it makes Paul assert what he purports to prove, an assertion which on its face seems implausible. Perhaps Paul is not talking about the thing that you think he is. Perhaps Paul is using irony. Perhaps he he referring to a specific context and situation and not speaking generically. Perhaps he is speaking about a specific type of good and evil, and a specific type of action, e.g. taking up arms against the governing authority vs. tolerating it without necessarily recognising it as an agent of general social order, welfare or security. And a specific type of response from the governing authorities: besieging the rebel city, catapulting 40Kg stones into it, breaching its walls, killing the rebel fighters, burning and demolishing its temple and throwing down its stones? Is that terrifying enough to qualify as a terror to evil in this context?