Redeeming “Social Justice” by Recovering Love for Persecuted Brethren

Project to Relieve Persecution Through Exegetically Enhancing Intra-Ecclesial Solidarity
(An Independent Study finished May 2007 under Dr. Mike Rynkiewich at Asbury Theological Seminary)

Part One–Background

A problem exists in the church today in that it does not show the love within itself that our Lord commanded. An example of the truth of this assessment is seen in our relative disregard for our suffering brethren being persecuted around the world, especially in Nigeria (briefly addressed in Part Three). An undesirable evangelistic disempowerment due to this is that the world no longer has the benefit of perhaps the prime corporate witness intended by Christ for His church to bear: the love we have for one another.

Persecution events occurring where such groups as al-Qaeda have gained sufficient power can be extrapolated into the Nigerian setting. As in Afghanistan and now in parts of Iraq, a systematic program of ideological genocide is committed against Christians whenever Islamists are able to incarnate the vision of the Qur’an and early Islam (as further defined below).

Therefore I propose that a partial solution to this seeming impasse is to be found in a recovery of the importance of intra-ecclesial love via interpretive revisionism of the Second Great Commandment (found in Part Four). This enhanced recovery of a full-orbed meaning of the Second Great Commandment is then applicable to any other ecclesial situation in the world beyond the Nigerian context treated in this paper.

Part Two–Islam

The term Islam in this paper is used to refer to closely related forms of original, Qur’anic, or true Islam (vis-à-vis liberalized, syncretized, watered-down, westernized, or otherwise unfaithful pseudo-Islams of various stripes). They are radically faithful to the tradition or Sunnah found in the Qur’an, the ahadith (especially Bukhari and Sahih Muslim), the Sirat Rasul Allah of Ibn Ishaq (as expurgated by Ibn Hisham)[1] and the history of Tabarī.[2] Such conservatively faithful believers may be known by such epithets as salafi, fundamentalist, Wahhabi, extremist, etc. Yet it would be imprecise at best to say they have perverted Islam, for they are the faithful conservatives of what is in the earliest texts and in the practices of Muhammad himself and his successors in early centuries of Islam. The peaceful practices Muslims have toward Christians are not a result of following real Islam in any sense but of their abiding by the strands of prevenient grace working in spite of Islamic writings and the example of Muhammad.

[1] Alfred Guillaume, trans., The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah (expurgated by Ibn Hisham; New Impression ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Ishaq was born ca. A.D. 672.
[2] Al-Tabarī, The History of al-Tabarī (Ta’rīkh al-rusul wa’l-mulūk) (Bibliotheca persica; New York: State University of New York Press, 1987), 38 vols. Abū Ja‘far Muhammad b. Jarīr al-Tabarī (A.D. 839–923) by common consent produced the most important universal history in the world of Islam.

Islamic doctrine bearing on relations with Christians in Nigeria

Regarding the exegesis of its holy texts, Muslims have historically held that later parts of the Qur’an supersede earlier ones; some of its earlier verses are cancelled or deleted, for which later revelations substitute. For example, Meccan surahs to the powerless Muslims tended toward tolerance of rejecters of Islam, but later Medinan surahs from the militarily empowered prophet advocate global jihad for the forceful subjugation or slaying of persistent infidels, a condition said to endure until the final Day of Judgment.[3]

Specifically, the “Islamic doctrine of abrogation” or “naskh posits one divine operation followed by another which is not the product of divine whim but the result of God’s eternal foreknowledge.”[4] Some relevant Qur’anic verses include: “And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say: You are only a forger. Nay, most of them do not know” (16:101 Shakir); “Allah makes to pass away and establishes what He pleases, and with Him is the basis of the Book” (13:39 Shakir); “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?” (2:106 Yusuf Ali; in his note, Ali links this with the concept of “progressive revelation”).[5] Gilchrist devotes a section at the close of ch. 1 on “The Theory of Abrogation in the Qur’an”: “The doctrine of abrogation of actual verses of the Qur’an was clearly taught and indeed fixed by the fuqaha, the early jurists of Islam.”[6]

Thus, when the texts of Islam are correctly interpreted, there is a better foundation for the persecution of Christians than there is for liberalized policies of peaceful tolerance. Christians are polytheists who are guilty of the greatest sin of shirk, association of partners with Allah, and who have distorted the revelations supposedly given them by Allah. And Muslims are alleged to be divine tools of eschatological judgment, global conquest, and dhimmitude/ slavery.[7]

[3] For example: “(c) 2:257 reads: ‘Let there be no compulsion in Religion’. This has been annulled by the famous āyatu’s-saif, The Verse of the Sword: 9:5, ‘When the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush’. cp. also verse 29, ‘Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, etc.’” (L. Bevan Jones, “Christianity Explained to Muslims: A Manual for Christian Workers,” The World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (Version 2.0) CD-ROM, Colorado Springs, Global Mapping International, 2006 [print ed: Calcutta: Y.M.C.A., 1938]).
[4] Theodore Pulcini, Exegesis as Polemical Discourse: Ibn Hazm on Jewish and Christian Scriptures (American Academy of Religion: The Religions 2; Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1998), 65.
[5] M. H. Shakir, trans., Qur’an. Available in BibleWorks 6. 3d electronic ed., 2001 (print ed. M. H. Shakir, trans, Holy Quran [Elmhurst, N.Y.; Norfolk, Va.: Tahrike Tarsile Quran; BibleWorks, LLC, 2003]); Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, trans.,“The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an,” The World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (Version 2.0) CD-ROM, Colorado Springs, Global Mapping International, 2006. London, Islamic Computing Centre, electronic text ed. (print ed. Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, trans., The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an [7th ed. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Quran, 2001]).
[6] John Gilchrist, “The Qur’an: The Scripture of Islam,” The World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (Version 2.0) CD-ROM, Colorado Springs, Global Mapping International, 2006. Consider further: “Two of the greatest of the early commentators of the Qur’an, Baidawi and Zamakhshari, attempted to interpret the purpose of this facet of Qur’anic revelation in the context of a definite substitution of one passage by another. Zamakhshari taught that Surah 2.106 was revealed to counter the objections of the pagan Arabs that Muhammad at times would command his followers to do a certain thing and would later forbid it and command the opposite. He believed, unlike other commentators who held that the abrogated verses remained in the Qur’an, that Allah expressly removes (azala) one passage to insert another. He commands the angel of communication, Jibril, to announce that one passage is cancelled either by its abolition or by its replacement with another passage. Baidawi likewise taught that the mansukh verse, the ‘abrogated’ text, became of no effect.” Cf. also Thomas Patrick Hughes, “Dictionary of Islam,” The World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (Version 2.0) CD-ROM, Colorado Springs, Global Mapping International, 2006 (print ed. Thomas Patrick Hughes, A Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopaedia of the Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs, Together with the Technical and Theological Terms, of the Muhammadan Religion [London: W. H. Allen, 1885]), 431.
[7] Cf. Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (trans. David Maisel; Rev. and enl. English ed.; Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985). Other components of Islamic theology that facilitate persecution include divine ethical voluntarism, absolute and universal predeterminism, and eternal reprobation of subhuman infidels.

Islamic practice in the history of Nigeria

The example of the Sokhoto Sultanate in northeast Nigeria is helpful background milieu for understanding today’s activities. Notably infamous was the practice of slavery and the international marketing of northern Nigerian eunuchs.[8] The British helped repress the centuries-old Islamic slave trade after they ceased participating in it (thanks to William Wilberforce).[9]

[8] See the description of the situation in modern Nigeria on pages 253-54 of Patrick Sookhdeo, “Christians in the Muslim World,” in The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (ed. R. Spencer; Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2005), 252-56.
[9] See Paul E. Lovejoy, Slow Death for Slavery: The Course of Abolition in Northern Nigeria, 1897-1936 (African Studies Series 76; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Revival/resurgence of Islam is inherent in the system

While it is true that many Muslims are not actively imitative of the practices and doctrines of Muhammad (and so are relatively peaceful and cooperative with Christians), it is also unfortunately a fact that, when a wave of zealous revival breaks out among the faithful of Islam, that those who remain relatively peaceful and do not arise in violence usually do very little if anything to oppose it among their fellow Muslims. Such a characterization is borne out in the case of the Islamic revival in northern Nigeria, to which we now turn.

Part Three–The Current Situation

Deception Even at Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS)

An early impetus for this paper occurred when a panel of Muslims were brought to ATS, and, moderated by Dale Walker, they told ATS students, faculty and staff, as well as non-ATS people in attendance, many things. Among these was a lie from a Dr. Mahmoud from Kano, in north Nigeria. He was some sort of political scientist and researcher and should have known better, but he said there were no persecutions in Kano. Being somewhat familiar with events there, I knew this was incorrect. For example, in the preceding February, over a hundred Christians were killed in Kano by a group of Muslims with swords.

Another falsehood came from a non-ATS audience member who claimed to be from Egypt yet lied in saying that the Coptic Christians are not persecuted there. Both of these examples of seemingly intentional untruths disinforming future church leaders may be understood as examples of the holy lie (comprising part of holy war or jihad). This seems empowered by the traditional Islamic practice of imperialistically deceptive da’wa. These sanctioned forms of religious deception include taqiyya, “concealment” and the doctrine of kitman, or “mental reservation,” i.e., telling a part of the truth, but not the whole truth, with intention to mislead.[10]

[10] Cf., e.g., Qur’an Surah 16:106.

Muslim propaganda is also used in northern Nigeria to cause opposition to Christians and the west

An example is the refusal to participate in the campaign of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to eradicate polio: “Nigeria is the last major challenge to the goal of [polio] eradication, Dr. Heymann said.[11] There, the W.H.O. has run into an unexpected hurdle from accusations by some Islamic leaders that the polio vaccine leaves young girls infertile. The United Nations buys its vaccine only from countries that meet its standards. The vaccines used in Nigeria are the same as the ones used elsewhere and have not been linked to sterility, Dr. Heymann said.” Hondros specifies that the Islamic, religio-politically motivated paranoia is effectively manifested as propaganda from the mosques.[12]

[11] Lawrence K. Altman, “Pocket of Opposition to Vaccine Threatens Polio Eradication” (New York Times online, 9 December 2003). Online: 7DF113DF93AA35751C1A9659C8B63. Accessed 1 May 2007.
[12] Consider also: “Nigeria’s regional capital of Kano . . . is a dusty and historic crossroads that once marked the beginning of trade and civilization for trans-Saharan travelers. During the harmattan season, the brown earthen buildings are sandblasted with a fine yellow dust that obscures the sun. Dominated by Muslim leaders, Kano is home to a virulent mistrust of the West and, at times, of the Nigerian central government in Abuja because of its emerging ties to the United States and Europe. ‘Polio, in Nigeria, is politics,’ says a doctor in Kano’s main public hospital complex, who asked not to be named for fear of his job. The hospital was built by the British during colonial times in the 20s . . . . What brought us to this pass is this: Nigeria, long a polio hot spot, ended its polio vaccination program in 2003 in a colossally misguided protest of everything Western . . . . Religious leaders in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, twisting news reports about inadvertent contamination in some vaccinations, began preaching in mosques and market squares that polio vaccines were a Western plot to sterilize Muslim women . . . . And so, for 11 months in 2003 and 2004, polio vaccinations in northern Nigeria were suspended. Eleven months was all it took for the virus to not only gain a renewed foothold in Nigeria, but to spread to 10 other African nations that had previously wiped out the disease. . . . I accompanied a vaccination team to a rural province . . . in northern Nigeria, figuring out ways to convince suspicious rural farmers that the vaccine is safe and does not affect fertility, which is the most common anti-vaccine rumor to echo out from Friday sermons at mosques” (Chris Hondros, “Polio Rebounds in Nigeria,” The Digital Journalist [May 2005, Issue 91]). Online: Accessed 1 May 2007.

Nigeria as a target of Islamist conquest

A plethora of persecution events in Nigeria could be enumerated. “In Islamic countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria, Christians suffer from persecution. In Pakistan, Islamist [spiritual leaders] have issued a fatwa [religious opinion] permitting the killing of two Christians for every Muslim killed by the American attacks in Afghanistan.”[13]

[13] The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “Iraqi Columnist: ‘It is Difficult to Recall a Period in Which Christian Arabs Were in Greater Danger than Today,’” n.p. September 24, 2004 [cited 30 March 2007]. Online: Yet the latter article may also be disinformation, for there have been over a millennium of persecutions (some can be considered genocidal) against Assyrian Christians in Baghdad and in Iraq at large; see the website of the Assyrian International News Agency at

Part Four–Solutions

Recovering global Christian solidarity to the level practiced by the early church would result in greater actions to alleviate the suffering.[14] In the next section of the paper, I will explore a preliminary exegetical basis for recovering this early solidarity. On a practical note, I have worked toward a proposed future event highlighting persecution in Nigeria (and elsewhere) and seeking a means to effect redress of the situation. In this vein, I have encouraged Keith Jagger of the Priscilla-Aquila ministry to work with me in producing a forum of some kind this fall of 2007.

[14] Dr. Michael Rynkiewich summarizes the work of Rodney Stark on this early solidarity: “Christianity probably did not succeed because it had a better doctrine or creed, but rather because the Christians formed real community where people cared for each other’s needs, including healing, caring for the sick, financial support for the poor, prayer with those in troubles of various kinds. It was such a strong community that they tended to survive better than others, and others saw the difference and joined because that was the kind of community they wanted to belong to.” See Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997).

Part Five–Exegetically Recovering Global Christian Solidarity

Redeeming ‘Social Justice’ to Promote Love of the Persecuted Brethren

The greatest Commandment re social justice is the love of Christians for other Christians.
Since Marxist theologies of liberation abuse Scriptural concepts of social “justice” to promote socio-politico-economic agendas, those ideologues must be corrected so that the concern for justice may be put back on track re its highest concern, love of the brethren. “He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’” (Matt 22:37–40 NRSV). Jesus cites Lev 19:18 for the Commandment to love other Christians. In the original context of Leviticus, it is clear this refers to intramural relations between fellow Israelites (as distinct from strangers, sojourners or aliens, which terms would be absurd if there were no distinctions), and the same application is given by Jesus. It does not refer to our love for non-Christians (although this is also a less important obligation that is dependant upon the love for God and for fellow Christians).

Some will say that the “neighbor” to whom Jesus refers does include non-Christians and interpret the Parable of the Good Samaritan to indicate that. Yet we must remember the context. Judaea and Samaria are the remnants of the South and North Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the divided “all Israel” which was prophesied to be restored and reunified (cf. Hos 2:23; 3:5; Isa 11 [messianic kingdom]; Jer 31:27, 31, 33 [the New Covenant]; Ezek 37 [the two “sticks” of divided Israel are united under one king]; Zech 8:13, etc.).

But there was divisiveness between the Israelites of Galilee, Judaea, and Samaria. This sort of division and bigotry is rebuked by Jesus in Luke 9:52–55:

And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them [as Elijah did]?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them” (NRSV).

Quickly after this (Luke 10:1–24) Jesus sent out His 70 messengers to cities (presumably including Samaritan cities like the ones to which He had just been) in fulfillment of the prophecies. It was immediately after this mission that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is given in Luke 10:25–38 to foster unity among the divided Israelite groups.

In this story, The Samaritan Israelite is shown by Jesus to love the Judaean [VIoudai/oj, usu. poorly trans. as “Jew”{15}] Israelite as a “neighbor” (i.e., a fellow Israelite according to Lev 19:18), and so the Judaeans should stop excluding the Samaritans on racist, etc., bases from the Israel that Christ is reconstituting. That is the original import of the parable in its 1st c. Judaean context.

[15] Cf. the note to John 8:31 in NET: “In NT usage the term VIoudai/oi (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory (i.e., ‘Judeans’), the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9; also BDAG 479 s.v. VIoudai/oj 2.e.) Here the phrase refers to the Jewish people in Jerusalem who had been listening to Jesus’ teaching in the temple and had believed his claim to be the Messiah, hence, ‘those Judeans who had believed him.’ The term ‘Judeans’ is preferred here to the more general ‘people’ because the debate concerns descent from Abraham.”

Christ distinguishes the Samaritans from Gentiles (Matt 10:5). Christ did not minister to non-Israelites.[16] But Christ did not consider Samaria to be outside of His reconstituting of Israel, and this is seen in His successful Messianic ministry there in John 4 (e.g., 4:22: “salvation is from the Judaeans” [see NET note 54]; cf. Hos 3:5), the command to go to “all Judaea and Samaria” before going to the outer earth[17] (Acts 1:8, where the two are treated as a unit: pa,sh| th/| VIoudai,a| kai. Samarei,a|), etc. Thus the Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves should be seen to continue the same meaning as it originally had from Lev 19:18, and we should more highly love fellow Christians as all parts of the Israel of God (Gal 6:16) than anything else except our love for God.[18]

[16] For example, see the clear precedence shown for the covenant people in the ministry of Jesus in Mark 7:27: “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” It was only after the Syrophoenician woman embraced this lower priority that she was allowed to gather the crumbs under the covenantal table.
[17] This is not strictly geographical but refers primarily to the spiritual expansion of the Kingdom outside of ethnic Israel, i.e., to include the Gentiles, which was begun within geographical Israel, i.e., Simon Peter’s vision at Joppa to convert the household of Cornelius the centurion at Caesarea Maritima.
[18] Another portion of Scripture opposing the same sort of exclusivist, racist bigotry as Jesus does with the story of the good Samaritan is the messianic character of Isa 56. There anyone who was in origin not a genetic descendant of Abraham but a “foreigner” but who specifically had already joined himself to Yahweh in covenant as part of the people of Israel is not to be excluded by other Israelites. Since this shows a parallel theme to my assertions, it strengthens the canonical theological character of my thesis re the special primacy of intra-ecclesial love. When non-Israelites join Israel (as did Asenath, Moses’ Cushite wife [Num 12:1], Rahab, Ruth, and all ex-Gentile Christians), they are to be considered full members of Israel and not in any way excluded on racist bases of physical, genetic origin of descent nor on the purity of their bloodline (which was the problem Jesus addressed in racist Judaeans excluding the Samaritans from the covenant [and, to a smaller degree, vice-versa] based on adulterated genetics).

The special solidarity of Christ’s Body is later emphasized: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34 NRSV); “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12 NRSV). These loves are seen integrated: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:17 NRSV).

This shows the integrity of loving God (as the 1st Great Commandment says) goes hand in hand with remembering to care for our fellow Christians even though it might cost us our lives (in obedience to the 2nd Great Commandment and as reflected in Jesus’ emphatic “new commandment”). The epistles of John treat this theme, e.g., “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11 NRSV).[19]

[19] But the trajectory of this Dual-Commandment paradigm is neglected by certain Christians in favor of lesser issues like legislating socialist economics in America (pace Wallis et al.).

We must have a greater obedience by loving the Church above other agendas. For the call of the church is to first take care of her own is given as the agency for world mission. The problem of over-reactionary jettisoning of the baby with the bathwater has created a scenario in which the church neglects our primary means of witness to the world out of mistaken concepts of humanistic compassion that actually result in the disarming of our tool to overcome the world, i.e., loving Christian solidarity. It is only after we obey the divine paradigm of prioritizing the church that we can be empowered for mission. My deceased mentor Francis Schaeffer correctly identified the essential mark of the church commanded in John 17:20–21: “ I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (NASB95).[20] Thus the means provided by prioritizing intra-ecclesial solidarity is neglected only sinfully, for we must practice that obedience in order for our Great Commission to be accomplished.

[20] See Francis Schaeffer, “The Mark of the Christian,” in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Volume 4: A Christian View of the Church; book 3; Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1982), 181–205.

Therefore, the social justice issue of highest priority in the world for Christians today should be addressing the persecution of multi-millions of Christians at all levels, from despite to death. We can begin to redeem social justice activities by focusing on alleviating the persecution of our fellow believers, thus obeying the greatest human Commandment of loving our Christian fellow covenant members, or “neighbors,” as ourselves (and thereby empowering our world mission). Liberation theology has something to offer in this area. So, since Liberals have focused on political activism and economic boycotts to change the social environment in South Africa, then (except for the segment of them that are merely abusing religion for their socialist concerns) they should be willing to pursue a greater obedience by doing the same sorts of activities when it deals with love for our persecuted brethren instead of mere socio-economic concerns like the Marxist struggle of the urban proletariat, etc.

Yet there needs to be an attitude adjustment, as typified in the anemic prayer, by an American who seems to know nothing about real persecution, at the conclusion of the chapel service last November 2006 on the day of prayer for the persecuted church. Favoring a view of idolizing suffering similar to the way martyrdom was sought out in the early church like today’s Jihadists see martyrdom as a ticket to heaven. But this view is pathologically misconceived like the attitude of mediaeval flagellati, who would whip themselves under the mistaken notion that it was a good thing in itself. Such a view rarely if ever has arisen from actually experiencing suffering, and it wrongly idolizes romantic notions above biblical paradigms of prayer. Instead of merely praying for spiritual empowerment to endure the suffering and for facilitating the persecutors, we must learn to primarily pray as Jesus taught: “deliver us from (the) evil (one).” The same paradigm arises from the Psalms, a guide to prayer that must be recovered for the church, e.g., “God, break the teeth in their mouths, snap off the fangs of these young lions, Yahweh” (Ps 58:6 NJB). Do a search on the words “deliver” and “rescue” for a further brief taste of how we should approach this issue.

In addition, the incorrect generalization of Jesus’ instructions for those in the period of covenantal succession must be corrected by a properly contextualized hermeneutic that recognizes the “coals of fire” were heaped on fellow Israelites who were members of the Old Covenant and were being offered the New. This context is not the same as facilitating Muslims who are slaying Christians as infidels today. Also, the mistaken universalizing of Jesus’ brief sacrificial behaviour as the unique Lamb of God is highly debatable; there is significant question as to how much our seeking of martyrdom is really God’s will today. Instead, we should be willing to endure suffering when it is the unavoidable consequence of our obedience, yet we should also cease from neglecting to oppose unjust persecution and should attempt to put an end to the suffering of our brethren for their obedience. Nowhere does the Bible commend those who promote the continued prosperity of the persecutors in their unjust activities, yet that is what we do today and fallaciously label it “heaping coals of fire” where no such “heaping” actually occurs at all. The Muslims laugh at us all the way to beheading our brethren now suffering while we pray for them to suffer better instead of doing something to stop the suffering.

Instead, we should seek to obey the 2nd Great Commandment via this proverbial paradigm: “If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; 12 if you say, ‘Look, we did not know this’ — does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?” (Prov 24:11–12 NRSV). “Deliver those being taken away to death, and hold back those slipping to the slaughter” (Prov 24:11 NET).[21] John Wesley notes: “Deliver – When it is in thy power. Drawn – By the violence of lawless men.”[22]

[21] The NET note: “God holds people responsible for rescuing those who are in mortal danger. The use of ‘death’ and ‘slaughter’ seems rather strong in the passage, but they have been used before in the book for the destruction that comes through evil.” Other versions translate: “Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution withdraw not” (Prov 24:11 NAB); “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Prov 24:11 ESV); ”Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back” (Prov 24:11 NASB95).
[22] John Wesley, “Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible,” The Wesleyan Heritage Collection. Wesleyan Heritage Publications Version 1.0 electronic ed., Rio, Wis.: AGES Software, 2002. (Print ed. John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament, Proverbs-Malachi [vol 4; Edinburgh: n.p., 1754-1765]). The Geneva Bible notes: “No one can be excused, if he does not help the innocent when he is in danger.”

Therefore we should promote activist strategies similar to those pressuring South Africa in order to pressure Nigeria to put an end to the social injustice of Islamic persecution against Christians and save the religious freedom (and physical existence) of the Christians from annihilation under oppressively totalitarian Islamic Shari’ah Law. This form of Islamic imperialism breaks the laws of Nigeria and embodies bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy and arises from those within the government abusing power and lying to promote their agendas.

Under Shari’ah, Christians’ institutions like schools are deceptively confiscated and transformed into Islamic indoctrination centers. There is a definite subclass system just as bad as anything under Apartheid in South Africa. Christians are passed over for jobs or promotions in favor of less-qualified people who are Muslim. Christians are refused building permits or properties to use for worship, while government funds are misdirected hypocritically to build mosques. It involves the lawless burning of churches, homes, cars, as well as the crimes of kidnapping, torture and murder against our brethren and includes illegal obstruction of justice and cover-ups.

Addressing all these great liberal themes (abuse of power, deception, inconsistency, hypocrisy, prejudicial oppression, violent intimidation, etc.), in addition to the great Commandment to love our neighbor Christians as ourselves, should no longer be ignored in favor of merely promoting, e.g., Wallis & Sojourners’ socialistic politico-economic agendas. We should observe a great deal of relevant Scripture.[23]

[23] Consider: NRS Isa 58:6: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”; NRS Job 29:17: “I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made them drop their prey from their teeth”; NRS Ps 82:4: “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”; NRS Acts 21:31: “While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul”; NRS Acts 23:10: “When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks”; NRS Acts 23:23: “Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, ‘Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen’”; NRS 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods [e.g., power of political pressure] and sees a brother or sister1 in need and yet refuses help?”; NRS Rom 16:4: “and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

Not only is Christian persecution response the highest-priority global social justice issue, it is also the means to redeem evangelistic witness. In His great final High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said it was by our solidarity in Christian loving unity that the world would know He is really of God:

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be [one] in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me
(John 17:20–23 NRSV).

This is the point of integration for the 1st and 2nd Great Commandments, to love God (Deut 6:5) and our neighbor Christians as ourselves (Lev 19:18).

Other groups like Mormons and Muslims have such an ésprit de corps, and the absence of it from Christianity in disobedience to Christ’s Commandment is a witness against the truth of the Gospel. Muslims can only conclude this when faced with our disobedient tolerance (even facilitation or assistance under the rubric of “heaping coals of fire”) of their depredations against our fellow believers in Nigeria.

Yet the primacy of loving fellow Christians in obedience to the 2nd Great Commandment is depreciated as somehow less worthy of earning spiritual points than is giving aid to those who are killing us. A sort of pathological self-denigration leads some to seek tolerance for other Christians to suffer as a means to earn themselves holiness credits. Oh, how pseudo-Christlike to rejoice in the suffering of others and believe it to be one’s own personal spiritual growth! But God is not pleased with such blemished offerings; it is better to obey than to sacrifice other Christians upon the injustice of Islamic malice.[24]

[24] Of course a word must be reiterated about defining Islam. I am in favour of those who have and are in the process of creating a liberal reformation of Islam into a new religion with which we can live and work. These liberal Muslims are to be assisted in their redefining of Islam into a peaceful religion. But original Islam, the real cult of pseudo-Allah founded from the beginning, is extant in certain faithful conservative groups like Wahhabism and Bin Ladin’s global Jihad movement. When I say “Islam,” I mean this true Islam which must be destroyed, not the liberal subversions of it that we should encourage. The former will not stop until they have achieved global domination by all means; the latter may be created in weak forms that we can convert eventually to Christianity.


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Hackett, Rosalind I. J. New Religious Movements in Nigeria. African Studies 5. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987.

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Jones, L. Bevan. “Christianity Explained to Muslims: A Manual for Christian Workers.” The World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (Version 2.0) CD-ROM. Colorado Springs, Global Mapping International, 2006. print ed: Calcutta: Y.M.C.A., 1938.

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Germanna A.D. 1714 Pioneers with Mace Pedigree

Having in recent generations suffered from the Thirty-Years’ War (ca. A.D. 1610–1660) and the economic downturn engendered, seven villages (e.g., Müsen, Trupbach and Oberschelden) in western Germany acted upon their desire for new life in a new land, America, where they both would live out their faith in peace from those who opposed such liberty of religious practice and would freely pursue enterprising economic prosperity. The occasion to fulfill their dreams arose as a result of acting Governor Spotswood’s desire to establish the mining industry in his Virginia Colony. Nassau-Siegen in Westphalia was a province known for iron-working and the region to which came an agent recruiting miners to develop the silver ores in Virginia and later also found the iron industry. (This area of Germany was where our 8th-century Saxon grandfather, Widukind, led raging pagan resistance from his wooden-palisaded hill-fort against the Christian empire of grandfather Charlemagne until he eventually came to see the truth of Christ and became an ardent convert hated today by neopagan Odinists as a traitor.)

Trusting firmly in Jehovah, the God of their fathers, perhaps 40+ German emigrants boldly ventured forth in the summer of 1713. Our family boasts five grandparents among these hardy few pilgrims: Philipp and Elisabeth (Heimbach) Fischbach with their young daughter Maria Elisabeth, and two single men, Johannes Spielmann (who later married Mary Elizabeth Fishback) and Johann Jost Merten. (See the individuals marked in yellow atop the “Germanna A.D. 1714 Pioneer Pedigree” chart.)

This reconstruction of the Germanna hill-fort includes the Mace pedigree from five of the founders.

Link to the full high resolution image.

Arriving in the Virginia Colony in April A.D. 1714, 33 immigrants founded in Essex County the western-most point of English civilizations along the Atlantic seaboard (being the first settlers in what became Orange County in A. D. 1733). They named the settlement “Germanna” in honour of their culture of origin, enduring harsh, pioneer living conditions expanding into the wilderness. Fort Germanna was constructed as the first “Pentagon” in Virginia long before our current national military headquarters. This was a wooden palisade atop a hill (similar to the early mediaeval Saxon hill-fort such as used by Widukind).

Constructing hill-fort Germanna almost surrounded by a loop of the Rapidan River

At the center of their fort stood the heart, both spiritual and physical, of their community, the combination church and blockhouse. These Germanna pioneers were the first (or perhaps second) non-Anglican body to be granted a degree of religious toleration in varying from the established state religion and thus have a role in development of what became our American concepts of religious liberty as championed by later Christian citizens of Orange County like Rev. Elijah Craig (my 4th great-granduncle) and his influence on James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, esp. the First Amendment. Within this very first organized congregation of the German Reformed Church anywhere in America, they gathered to access the source of their spiritual power in Christ. In addition, the strong construction and loopholes for shooting provided a place of safety from physical danger. “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing” (fellow Saxon Martin Luther). These rugged soldiers of Christ were classed as “Rangers” by official decree and given two cannons by the government in order to facilitate their use of Fort Germanna to protect the Virginia colony to the east from depredation by ruthless Indian savages.

Fort Germanna at an early stage of habitation

In ca. A.D. 1719, the Fishbacks, Spilmans and Martins moved with others from Germanna to found the new settlement of German Town (or Germantown), where, 36 years later on land that had belonged to both Martins and Fishbacks, was born John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, principle founder of the U.S. system of Constitutional law, including the doctrine of judicial review.

Map of German Town ca. A.D. 1727, with the birthplace of Chief Justice John Marshall indicated in lot #3

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Theses for 3rd-Millennial Reformation

“From Luther’s day to the present, October 31, 1517 has been considered the birthday of the Reformation. At noon on this Eve of All Saints’ Day, Luther nailed on the Castle Church door, which served as a bulletin board for faculty and students of the University of Wittenberg, his Ninety-five Theses, as his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences has commonly been called.” (Luther’s Works 31:19)

This anniversary of Luther’s posting is the day on which I begin to similarly post my theses for reformation of the Church. As in Luther’s day, when the basic tenet of salvation by grace had generally been practically lost, so today has another Christian theological essential been distorted and lost, the true meaning and praxis of the Second Great Commandment (2GC). This widespread disobedience of the Church to the fundamental plan of God has led to a retardation in the achieving both of His Church’s maturity and so of the ultimate destiny of humanity as the restored corporate image of the Creator in the kosmos.

Yet, even amidst mighty enemies spreading darkness in hatred against the Church, we have hope for the future in recovering our basic identity and purpose through reestablishing a civilization based on 2GC. Seeing the vision of renewed Christian culture as a loving global voluntary individual communitarian solidarity. I believe the best days of restored humanity lie ahead of us.

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Thoughts on Scot McKnight’s, “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others”

Useful for some general loving towards all humans, this well-intentioned effort understandably walks behind the scholarly consensus on the definition of the 2d Great Commandment (2GC) and so misdefines it to our great detriment. In completely missing the mark on the definition of 2GC, otherwise often helpful McKnight disempowers the Church from the synergism needful with the 1st Great Commandment.

In actuality, the 2d is like the 1st Great Commandment (and no less) because they are both about the loving solidarity amongst unfallen communitarian idenitities. The intra-Trinitarian love exercised amidst the communitarian God is reflected in the intra-ecclesial love commanded for the corporate image of that Trinity on earth, the communitarian Body of Christ, the Church. Simply put, the definition of the “neighbor” whom Christians are commanded to love is still limited to fellow covenant members as in Lev 19:18.

In wrongly universalizing “neighbor” to signify any human being, heedless of the determinative distinction between still-fallen and already-redeemed conditions, McKnight understandably emulates erroneous human tradition that keeps the Church from becoming the Holy-Spiritually-empowered, loving global communitarian solidarity that will be formed by such love to enable greater love of the fallen, even of enemies. And only then will we cease destructive schismatic squabbles and restore the centripetal evangelistic attraction of John 17 to its rightful primacy. We will be the eschatologically mature image of God foreseen by Paul, knit together in the bond of love and empowered by Holy Spirit. Once again the world will say, “Behold, how they love one another” and flow up to Jerusalem.

But this work by McKnight, while helpful in some impulses to love and serve God and all humans, bypasses the very agent of formation, the tool intended by God to enable our growth in love, the loving community of the Church. Jesus said that failing to get both of the Great Commandments right would let fall all the other commandments dependent on getting those two right. So, until we love other Christians (our only “neighbors”) as ourselves, we will never be able to really obey the subsequent love commandments dependent on that one, which synergizes with loving God. Only when we love God and His image on earth in the Church, when we love Christ and the Body of Christ, will we best love the lost and those who are enemies to God and His people. Please learn this, Dr. McKnight, and write an even better book.

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