By Keith Thompson
A while back I had an impromptu discussion/debate with Whalid Shoebat’s son Theodore. At first I challenged him to a timed, moderated debate on if the earliest Christians were Roman Catholics focusing on specific issues like papal primacy etc. Instead he wanted to debate right then and there on the general topic of “the antiquity of the Catholic Church.” What we ended up talking about were Roman Catholic atrocities like the inquisitions. In defense of the Catholic inquisitions Theodore stated he agreed with the mass murder of the Cathar women and children because the men of that sect were in battle with the Catholic Church. That is quite ruthless but then he attempted to prove the Old Testament justifies this since he was unable to show this is mandated under New Covenant, Christian regulation. Though unable to properly refute my case that the Old Testament employed common ancient near eastern hyperbolic war victory rhetoric when speaking of wiping out whole peoples, he has since attempted to show the new covenant justifies Christian militancy in his youtube videos.
In this essay I will be quoting from his videos on the subject and interacting with his arguments therein. To briefly clarify my position I will say that there is nothing biblically wrong with supporting a state’s just war against a threat to your country or if an army is treating other people unjustly through genocide etc. Military intervention in that case is biblically justified. However, the idea that, as Theodore affirmed in our debate, the Christian church should wage war against heretics or pagans, mass murdering their women and children, or wipe out entire Muslim civilizations including women and children in a war situation is just not something the New Covenant (which we are under ) justifies anywhere. In fact New Testament teaching affirms the opposite. Hence Shoebat is teaching an unbiblical doctrine similar to Islamic jihad.
One more prefacing remark before beginning is necessary. Theodore’s main argument is that since in the Old Testament the Jews were militant for God and killed people this means the Christian church should do the same. However, leaving aside all the evidence for such Old Testament wars involving killing women and children being common ancient near eastern hyperbolic war victory rhetoric which isn’t meant to be taken literal, even if such Old Testament wars did include the murder of women and children the fact is those wars took place only when God directly commanded them on specific occasions. God didn’t say, as Islam does, that His people should fight until the end of time until Judaism is believed in around the world and all heresy or paganism is wiped out. Therefore, citing such Old Testament incidents of wars does nothing to justify God’s people today in a continual fashion wiping out heretics or nations including women and children. Moreover, Christians are under the New Covenant not the Old which is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) and so Shoebat needs New Testament, New Covenant justification for the idea that God’s church should wipe out heretics or nations – men women and children. Now let us see if such notions have new covenant support by critiquing his videos. After our refutation of Theodore’s arguments we will provide a biblical case that Christians are not permitted to wipe out heretics or pagans including women and children.
Theodore’s comments will be in red
My responses will be in black.
“In 1 Peter 2:17 here we have Christendom encompassed in one beautiful line. This is what is says: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” It encompasses the spirit of Christendom in this one single line. Why? Because it has the state and the church and the spirit of the church, the precepts of the church, all merged together. . . . And it says “honor all men.” This goes back to what Christ said: “love your neighbor as yourself”. . . . When Christians were being butchered in the Middle East Pope Urban II went to Christendom and told the peoples of Western Christendom to fight for their brothers in the east. This was honouring all men” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: St. Peter - - Patriarch of Christendom).
There are numerous exegetical problems with this statement. First, Peter is not combining the state, church and spirit of the church into a system here. That is anachronism and reading a foreign concept into the text. Peter recognized the Roman state was pagan and distinct from the Church and was merely exhorting Christians to honor both the brothers and the pagan Roman emperor they were under (i.e., Nero). The meaning is although we belong to God that is not a pretext to sin and so we must obey the common laws of the land and hence honor the Emperor in that way (Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary, Vol. 37, [B&H Publishing Group, 2003], p. 134). As for the idea of honouring everyone and loving the brotherhood being taken to mean fighting wars and or massacring women and children for the brotherhood, that is not the context. How are you honouring everyone if you are, as Theodore wants you to, mass murdering pagans and heretics? That’s not honouring everyone. And how is doing this loving the brotherhood? Do you think real Christians want you to wipe out women and children for them? What sane Christian would view you doing that as a love gift to them?
“And then of course there is loving God with all your might. This is where the warrior element is involved within Christendom. King Hosea, when he killed off the pagans within his country, the Scripture says that he loved God with all of his strength or might” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: St. Peter - - Patriarch of Christendom).
The commands to love God with all your might are in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30. However, does loving God with all your might here refer to wiping out women and children of heretics and pagans? Of course not. Old Testament exegete Earl S. Kalland rightly notes that the point of Deuteronomy 6:5 is not so much to specify the emotional, intellectual and physical aspects of loving God individually as it is to “indicate the totality of a person’s commitment of self” (Earl S. Kalland, Deuteronomy, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 64) to God. The issue is complete devotion of all of one’s self to God, not physical issues specifically much less war or mass murdering women and children. That is again reading things into the text when they are not there. Theodore wants to find his doctrine in Scripture so badly that he ends up erroneously inserting it into texts that do not actually teach it at all. Theodore did not give a reference for Hosea loving God with all his might by mass murdering people. The word for “might” used in Deuteronomy 6:5 is nowhere found in the book of Hosea and so Theodore is not justified in asserting allusion is being made. This is why it is important to study the original languages of the Old and New Testaments and not just assume allusions are being made and connect verses whenever you wish.
“And this is where Romans 13 comes in to play where Paul says that the ruler does not hold the sword in vain. He is a terror to evil doers. And St. Peter in 1 Peter 2:14 tells us that rulers are chosen by God to punish evil people and reward righteous people” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: St. Peter - - Patriarch of Christendom).
Romans 13:1-4 says, “1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4). This is clearly talking about God setting up leaders of societies to impose laws and penalties including capital punishment for those who disobey such laws. It is not talking about agreeing with rulers when they mass murder innocent women and children of different civilizations. That is not the context and hence it does not support Theodore’s Christian militancy at all. In his commentary on Romans Thomas Schreiner notes that v. 4’s mention of rulers bearing the sword refers “to the broader judicial function of the state, particularly its right to deprive of life those who had committed crimes worthy of death” (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, ed. Moises Silva, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 6, [Baker Academic, 1998], p. 684). He cites numerous Romans experts who agree such as Barrett, Michel, Murray, Dunn, Stein, Stott, and Moo. Moreover, lest Theodore misuse this text and argue that believing paganism is a crime worthy of death and thus rulers (like the Catholic Church) who kill them must be agreed with, he must realize that in context the Roman rulers Paul is referring to were pagans! Hence, Paul would be saying pagan rulers kill pagans because it is a crime! That makes no sense, however. Theodore also referenced 1 Peter 2:13-14 which says, “13Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14). However, this again has to do with rulers punishing state criminals, not rulers wiping out women and children because they believe differently. Context context context.
“Matthew 22:2-8 says, “2The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast."' 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy” (Matthew 22:2-8). Right here we have an exemplification of holy war” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: Violent Warfare in the New Testament).
Does this text really justify Christians engaging in “holy war”? Hardly. Many scholars believe the reference to God sending his troops to kill those who persecuted the prophets, John the Baptists and Christians refers to God’s sovereignty over pagan Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, ed. Joel B. Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Wm. B. Eardmans, 2007], p. 825). Since the Jews persecuted God’s people, God ordained pagan Rome destroy Jerusalem. If this view is taken, all it does is show God judged Jerusalem for killing the prophets and Christians, not that Christians should now go around mass murdering women and children of other civilizations. That is reading into the text. Other scholars reject this view because Jerusalem was not actually burnt. Instead they argue this text is climactic and eschatological referring to the judgement of the ungodly world at the end of time. If this view is true all it says is one day God will come with His saints and destroy the ungodly right before the final judgement, not that Christians should now go wipe out unbelievers as Shoebat claims.
Hebrews 11:32-33 says “32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:32-33). . . . Paul is using warfare as examples of faith; military fetes, military accomplishments done in holy war in the Old Testament as examples of faith for us Christians, the church, to follow” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: Violent Warfare in the New Testament).
Paul noting Old Testament Jews conducted wars by faith does not constitute an exhortation for Christians to wage holy war against unbelievers today. Just as v. 17’s mention of Abraham offering up Isaac by faith does not mean Christians should sacrifice their children to God today, neither does vv. 32-33 mean Christians should go around engaging in war all the time. The writer to the Hebrews is simply recounting various things Old Testament Jews did by faith. That is it. He is not saying “go do all these specific things as well.” Again, Theodore is forced to read into the text because the New Testament does not affirm his Roman Catholic practice. He thinks Paul wrote Hebrews. But we will discuss what Paul actually taught on this issue later in our discussion on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
Luke 22:35-38 says, “And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." 36He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ 38And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough’” (Luke 22:35-38). Jesus told all of them to buy swords, not just two. . . . And when Peter tells Jesus ‘Oh here are two,’ Jesus says ‘it is enough,’ but you can’t simply ignore the fact that initially Jesus told all twelve of them to buy a sword. With that said, it further shows the indication that truly this was not just to fulfil prophecy but to give the disciples the opportunity to defend themselves. It was really for the sake of defending themselves from persecution because Jesus said ‘remember when you were out there without purse and without staff and you were fine?’ Yes, we remember that. Well now guess what? Now you’re not going to be fine and now you’re going to need help. So go buy a sword (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: When Jesus Told His Disciples to Buy Swords).
Right off the bat it should be asked: if Theodore is right then why is it never recorded that when the disciples and early Christians were persecuted they used swords to slay the unbelievers? Why when we are told about early Christian persecution in the New Testament is it never said a disciple fought off or attempted to fight off his persecutor with his sword? In fact, we know this view is wrong because when Peter did use his sword to cut the ear of a soldier who was capturing Jesus (i.e, what Theodore advocates), Jesus told Peter to stop and put it down since those who live by the sword die by it (Matthew 26:52; Luke 22:49-51). This utterly refutes Theodore’s false position. And, no this does not mean Peter was simply using the sword in the wrong time, it means if you live by the sword you will die by it so do not live by it. Now, although Jesus told the disciples to buy swords in Luke 22:36, he said two was enough in v. 37 because the purpose of buying the swords was to fulfil Isaiah 53:12 which talks about Messiah being numbered with transgressors. By having two swords the disciples would symbolize transgressors. If Jesus truly wanted them all to have a sword for the purpose of holy war, why would he say two is enough in v. 38? That makes absolutely no sense! What about this claim that vv. 35-36 teach now the disciples are not going to be fine but in need moneybags, knapsacks, sandals and swords for the purpose of holy war. This is false. Why assume Jesus wanted them to have swords for holy war and not simply scaring off thieves which was a common reason behind wearing a sword of protection at that time (Sabb. 6:4)? Moreover, to interpret the two swords the apostles present to Jesus as one spiritual sword and one physical sword (leaving room for the idea of each of the twelve having both a spiritual and physical sword) makes Jesus’ reply that two “is enough” nonsense. Why would he say two are simply enough when the amount they had was actually more than enough? Lastly, even if we did take Shoebat’s false view of this text, it would not justify wiping out women and children of those who believe differently than you. It would only support self defense.
Luke 22:31-32 says, “31"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,32but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32) “Be a protector to your brethren. To strengthen does not necessarily mean to encourage, it also could entail protecting. Because when you protect something you strengthen them” (Theodore Shoebat, youtube video: St. Peter - - Symbol of Warfare).
The word “strengthen” or “confirm” in Luke 22:32 is stērizō in the original Greek and it does not mean protect. It has no connotation of militancy. According to the standard in lexical studies, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Baur, Danker Arndt and Gingrich, the meanings of the word are as follows: (1) to fix firmly in a place, set up, establish, support; (2) to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen (BDAG, [University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 945). Notice, the lexical standard does not say one of the meanings is “protect” as Theodore claims. This is a lie. When the same word is used in Acts 14:22 it is in reference to comforting strength: “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” This is the sense in Luke 22:32 as well. As William Hendriksen correctly observes, ". . .considered in and by itself, Simon's fall was bad, very bad, tragic. Yet, once it had occurred, Simon must make good use of this bad fall. He must use it to strengthen his fellow disciples" (William Hendriksen, Luke, New Testament Commentary, [Baker Book House, 1978], p. 974). Peter strengthening the brothers must be taken in a comforting sense since Peter could relate to trials, tribulations, temptations and tests (such as denying Christ three times and falling) and so was in the position to help others who went through those same experiences. That is the emphasise of Jesus commanding Peter to strengthen the brothers after his fall and return to Christ. It has nothing to do with militancy at all. Theodore is clearly unable to understand Holy Scripture because he has not the Spirit of God.
Biblical Case Against Christian Militancy
After examining Theodore’s arguments we see the type of things he says concerning the New Testament are not only false but they do not in the least justify Roman Catholicism mass murdering innocent women and children just because they believed differently than Rome, much like what happened in the inquisitions. We have seen no biblical basis for this kind of thing Theodore supports. Theodore is still acting like a Muslim. It seems his father and he have not yet departed from Islamic, jihad style thinking.
The New Testament teaches the complete opposite of what this man proclaims. For example, instead of telling the disciples and early Christians to wipe out those who believed differently or persecuted them, Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Theodore has to either reject or twist this clear text in order to maintain his false doctrine. This is because he believes later men in his false church instead of the Word of God. Paul likewise says “bless those who persecute you” in Romans 12:14, not “massacre men women and children of a group just because one in their group kills one of your people” (the situation concerning the Catholic massacre of the Cathar women and children).
Also, in 1 Peter 3:9 Peter says, “Do not repay evil for evil.” So did the disciples believe their swords were meant to kill those who persecuted them? Clearly not. Now, again, if the state engages in a just war against combatants such as Hitler’s army etc., that is one thing. But to wipe out those who believe evil things by murdering them is refuted by this text.
Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 Paul says, “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). These are texts Theodore needs to really think about and accept, not distort.
Also, as referenced earlier, Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 is quite explicit: “4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The Christian Church’s weapons are not of the flesh. Theodore says they are. Instead we are to destroy arguments and take thoughts captive. Theodore, on the other hand, wants Christians to go around destroying people and taking them captive.
Moreover, instead of slaying the unbeliever or theological opponents of Christianity just because they believe paganism or heresy (Theodore’s position), the Apostle Paul said “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
I could go on and on but these clear references are more than sufficient to destroy Theodore’s heresy of Christian militancy.