Regular readers of our blog will know that Preston Sprinkle has just published his book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence with the help of Eternity graduate Andrew Rillera. While Preston has said enough about the subject matter of the book to make most readers uncomfortable and/or angry (jk, jk, jk—sort of) and to turn father against son and son against father, I’m going to take a moment to officially recommend the book and give a brief review.
I suspect that some potential readers will be hesitant to pick up Fight because they’re sure they’ll disagree. For a few reasons, I encourage you to read it anyway.
We should always be looking to sharpen our understanding of Scripture and challenge our opinions. I know of respectably mild-mannered American patriots, skeptical biblical scholars, and full on gun-nuts with second amendment tattoos who are all reading the book. Good for them. Even if they don’t find their views changing, they will find their views sharpened and will be more biblically knowledgeable in terms of why they believe what they believe.
But that’s the beauty of Fight. Preston isn’t sharing his opinion in the book. At times, he will tip his hand and let the reader know what he would do in a given situation. But throughout the book Preston is concerned with exploring what the Bible says about violence.
Throughout Fight, Preston asks several questions of the biblical text:
- Was warfare God’s solution to Israel’s problems in the Old Testament?
- Did Jesus really teach nonviolence?
- Won’t Jesus’ return mean a violent battle?
I think most readers will be surprised at how much time Preston spends interacting with the Bible. Fight isn’t about the second amendment, foreign policy, or World War II. It has implications for each of these issues, but the book is about what the Bible says about the way Christians respond to their enemies.
Though the book addresses questions we can’t help but be fascinated with (Wasn’t Bonhoeffer right to try and assassinate Hitler? Shouldn’t I use violence to protect my family against an intruder?), it addresses them only after having surveyed the biblical teaching on violence. Even then, Preston only answers them reluctantly. In each case, he lays out the biblical teaching that comes to bear on the issue, lays out a few responses that would fit within the Bible’s framework, and cautiously offers the way he thinks (or hopes!) he’d respond.
The strong point of Fight, however, is not the answers it offers to these specific questions. Even though we fixate on them (who doesn’t want to know how they should respond to the midnight intruder?), you’d be misreading Fight to skip directly to those sections. It’s not that Preston’s answers are weak here; it’s just that they’re not the point.
What Fight gives us is careful and insightful teaching on crucial biblical passages. The question is not how much we love our nation, our military, or our right to bear arms. Nor is the question how effective we think a shotgun would be in deterring a rapist or how far Hitler would have gone had the Allies not used military force.
The most important question we can ask here is how Jesus would have us fight against evil. And this question raises other important questions about violence in the Old Testament, the relationship of the Christian to the government, the example of the early church, etc.
These are the issues that Fight addresses. So while you may not find yourself agreeing at every point, Fight will help you think through the most important passages of Scripture that relate to the use of violence. I’m biased, of course—I found myself convinced by nearly everything in Fight—but I urge you to give it a shot (no pun intended). The American church would be so much healthier if we all gave this issue the careful thought it calls for.