Onward, Christian Soldiers Ill Prepared for War

We should change the hymn to that. I recently watched Kirk Cameron’s documentary “Monumental” on netflix. Looking at people reviewing it on youtube I saw mostly nonbelievers criticizing what they felt was a poor grasp of history and believers praising the film, feeling it was ‘enlightening’. A brief summation is that the film presents the idea of tracing the pilgrim/puritan roots of America and suggests that the National Pilgrim Monument is a ‘Matrix of Liberty” that demonstrates how a country should be founded and remain established on a basis of biblical values in order to be a good and well functioning society.

I wondered what Kirk Cameron and his friend, the historian Marshal Foster, really understand about the Bible. While there are themes of establishment of strong community upon faith in God in the Bible, there are also stories of martyrs and wanderers, outcasts and of the importance of faith in the face of despair. We are told in the Bible that the body may die, the soul endures.

Recently I’ve been teaching on the last chapter of the book of Ephesians. I find it at times depressing that Ephesians, which like most Epistles is not very long, is so hard to teach to people. I found it difficult to learn but I find it sad that it is socontroversial among supposed Christians. The most poorly maintained of the items listed in the full armour of God is the Word, in my opinion. Christian people seem to love testimonies, movies, concerts, huge celebratory gatherings, seminars, but time spent in the Word of God is so lacking.

In the documentary, there is a lack of mention of how many generations of suffering and struggle went before the Puritan movement in the British Isles and the Reformation in mainland Europe. There’s not even a mention of the constant striving towards having the ordinary person be able to study the Bible for themsevles, and the reasons why it was considered dangerous–the danger of false interpretation, of civil strife in society and so on. Like so many approaches in modern Christianity, there’s this expression of a desire for a ‘fix’ that will make things better. There is little mention of the idea that evil beyond mere kings and parliaments are in the world opposing the faith.

While in the documentary Kirk Cameron says he isn’t setting out to blame, his words outside this documentary contradict that. He blames things like the Gay Agenda, for instance, and that the government doesn’t allow prayer in schools for a degradation of Christian values. However to me this is not really the fault of people who don’t believe in the Bible. I look at how few Christians I know really read it, really know what it contains, focus on it, prefer to let pastors or other ministry leaders do the studying for them, prefer to enjoy the praise and worship and easier mental stuff, and think “well, that figures. We dropped the ball.”

Without the sword–the Word–what good is all that armour we supposedly have but to crouch in a defensive position? How do we know what is morally true and right? If we do not discuss it and challenge one another on it, how is it proven and tested so that it is true in the face of a real battle?

Having done kendo myself, I know that sword work requires real work. Leave it, and you get soft, your reflexes get slow, you do not have the right instincts. In human beings, instincts need to be trained, because our basic instinct of the flesh is selfish, cowardly and lazy for the most part. What the Bible teaches us in the parables Jesus told using seeds as an analogy for faith is that faith is developed carefully over time with care and effort. The challenges to it–distractions, offenses and direct evil–are serious, and can stop its growth or kill it. The shield in ancient combat, which Paul the Apostle uses to describe faith, is paired with the sword. They are stronger together.

Paul emphasizes the whole armour of God for a reason. Salvation as a helmet makes sense–a sense to the very core of our thinking that it is salvation that is at the core of our thinking. A breastplate of righteousness–the very sense of our life itself wrapped in righteousness, because as Christ taught us virtue is better than bread. But do most Christians really live by that?

Shod in the Gospel of Peace–what moves us forward, what gives us purpose is the absolute belief in Christ’s message of peace for the spirit, freedom from sin, unity with God.

When I hear about things like the divorce rate, the lack of moral compass of our society, I can’t help but look at how the Church is really little different from society. I know this has been said before, but I felt after seeing this film it needs to be said again. I need to remind myself of this too.


25 thoughts on “Onward, Christian Soldiers Ill Prepared for War

  1. mestown was founded in 1607

    The pilgrims landed in 1620

    The South was established 1st and the political roots of the usa are Southeren

    Resting the utoi he usa/ colonial america on the pilgrims Is a useful bit of propaganda for the left as it gives an illusion of moral superiority to the progressive movement; the pilgrim’s attempted to build a utopia in the same manner the progressives have been trying to do. Also the progressive movement and countless utopian religious orders come from the descendants of th Purtians/ pilgrims

    So real Kirk there is wrong on multiple fronts

  2. Yeah there’s that too. The documentary’s “history” is vague, and is mostly part of Kirk’s narrative based on his friend Foster’s view of America as a nation founded on godly principles. Like you need this extra vaguely historical reason to be a Christian.

  3. Christian people seem to love testimonies, movies, concerts, huge celebratory gatherings, seminars

    Christian women actually love these things. A few men also, but most are either crushed into faux enthusiasm or its pure chasing of The Lift. In any case its female dominance in the spiritual lives of North American’s that has driven this. Its easy to see it makes them FEEL something that the scripture does not….as much if scripture moves them at all.

    The negative side , disincentive, is the pure teaching from scripture , while its been gotten around through tricks, still makes them uncomfortabl,e

  4. ” If we do not discuss it and challenge one another on it, how is it proven and tested so that it is true in the face of a real battle?” I agree 100%. My wife sometimes wants to have a discussion. But then she doesn’t like what I say, or the tone of my voice, or how I say it sometimes using the’evil language of Mordor’ in my comments. I find most of the christian community just as easily offended. Seems to me that if one had on the whole armour of God then absolutely nothing should offend them. Maybe that is the test to see if you have on the whole armour of God. In fencing, if one does not compete against better ‘foes’, one is not likely to improve. No manner of attack or defense should be forbidden.One should strive to learn to overcome all manner of attacks with all manner of defenses. Would you really allow such freedom in discussions of God and the Scriptures?
    The Word of God is very contentious, both in bringing you to saving faith and in developing the spiritual walk.(James1) Most people do not spend time with God because God is not likely to pat them on the head and tell them how blessed the Father is to have such a wonderful, smart and righteous person on His team. The OT prophets is more the tone that one will hear from God when a person first grasps hold of God and refuses to let go. You will learn your wrongs that Jesus died for before you learn the wonders that God promises.(1Cor14)
    Feminism is the way of the world which John described in 1John2:16 which is the same thing that Eve described in Genesis3:6. It will never disappear until Jesus returns. It must be overcome by each saint and by each assembly.

  5. Christian women actually love these things. A few men also, but most are either crushed into faux enthusiasm or its pure chasing of The Lift. In any case its female dominance in the spiritual lives of North American’s that has driven this. Its easy to see it makes them FEEL something that the scripture does not….as much if scripture moves them at all.

    Yup. I’ve visited several churchiangelical franchises over the last couple of months (eight, to be exact) and in two-thirds of those, the pastors’ wives were practically co-preaching/co-leading the worship services with them. NOT a good health signal for an already thoroughly diseased organism.

    That said, I really think that the emphasis on song/praise/worship/testimonials at the expense of a focus on Scripture is less a sign of female domination of church culture than it is a sign of both spiritual and intellectual laziness and rebellion by both sexes. Reading and absorbing the word takes spiritual and cerebral effort. Why do that when others are willing to pre-digest it for you? Also, the Scriptures contain messages that are absolutely anathema to the modernism that is now churchianity’s guiding force, so why face that unpleasantness when you can just sing and shout about how great Jesus is? As long as you make yourself and other people “feel good” about Jesus, who cares about what He or His Father actually say?

  6. @Bobbye re: “My wife sometimes wants to have a discussion. But then she doesn’t like what I say, or the tone of my voice, or” or …

    That is because to women, a “discussion” with a husband comprises her doing the talking and him doing the listening.

  7. When it comes to teaching the christian community, it’s rough. There is no other way to put it because they have their own mind made up on how things should be (christian ways, etc). They usually go by what others have said but if you can say it and have the bible to back you up, they are offended and throw what you said under the rug.

    Women usually look for an emotion charge or something they feel is right. Their feelings is what they believe God is and anything else outside of that is irrelevant. There are some or a few that will not let their emotions determine God but like I said “a few.”

  8. I think it’s a combination of laziness and women’s influence. The two go hand in hand.

    I believe that the male role in Ephesians 5 is to be like Christ in the sense that there is a balance, in Christ, of compassion and devotion to the truth–but Christ was uncompromising about the truth. Obviously for both roles it is a matter of striving and not from the gate perfection, but I see many men, many husbands, tempted to the past of least resistance with women.

    There’s another element here too–I have noticed in a lot of churches there tend to be men who either enjoy the adulation of the feminine spirit of things–charismatic and energetic guys who enjoy the lift as empath puts it–or metrosexual guys who really love the worship/testimonials stuff.

    Having said this,this documentary highlights a kind of sentimentality that men do that I find just as frustrating. A sentimental glowing picture of a society that makes it okay to want to be a Christian. I personally don’t believe that this is helpful. One thing that I found myself surprised but glad to agree with Mark Driscoll on is this: that we in Canada and the US (and a number of other countres) simply don’t live in a Christian civilization. If we did, saying usury is a sin would be a no brainer. We don’t though; we live in a civilization that has elements that appear to be Christian. If even within the Church most people haven’t read the Bible, barely understand what it contains and say that they don’t have time to read it (even for five minutes a day, I’ve heard some say) then we don’t live in a Christian society. If we did, we would be more ready as church communities to take a moral stand on things that are real and readily quotable from scripture, and would be ready to get fired from jobs, lose friendships or the affection of family, and as church communities would embrace the grief of those who did. My own pastor has said many times, “Christians dropped the ball. We failed to be the salt of the Earth. That’s still the plan, we need to do it.”

  9. soujourner
    I believe that the male role in Ephesians 5 is to be like Christ in the sense that there is a balance, in Christ, of compassion and devotion to the truth–but Christ was uncompromising about the truth. Obviously for both roles it is a matter of striving and not from the gate perfection, but I see many men, many husbands, tempted to the past of least resistance with women.

    The path of least resistance is the easiest way, by definition. It’s a tautology, in fact. Most men, whether churchgoing or not, don’t really want to fight with women for any number of reasons, and modern women are prone to start a fight pretty much over anything. So at the micro level, it’s easiest. Because he won’t get any support for this in his own house, aside from the man in the mirror.

    Step out from the micro to the community, and the path of least resistance is still the easiest; most churchgoing men will get zero support or at best very tepid support for seeking to apply the role spelled out. He won’t get any real support from other men in church.

    Step out from that community to the larger society, and we all know what roles are prescribed as welll as proscribed for men: supplicator GOOD, dominator BAD. There’s no support or reward from any corner of the world for doing this, except from men in the androsphere. Certainly no, none, zero support from sources such as “The Gospel Coalition” or “Focus on the Family” or any…any…other religious institution.

    If a man’s house is not in order, how can he tell other men much of anything about right living? Yet men are discouraged from leading their own household, and encouraged not to lead but rather to submit. From the micro to the macro, the pattern holds.

    You can’t beat up men at the household level and then expect them to lead at the church or societal level. It doesn’t work.

  10. Anonymous Reader:
    An example. My son-in law and his brother lived with their mother since very young. Their mom and dad divorced. Dad left. He is still alive and lives near. My SIL Mike has 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Mike’s dad is excluded from their lives, just as he was from Mikes life. Mikes brother Kelly has 2 children and 3 grandchildren. Dad is excluded from their lives. It would be easy to claim that all of this is on the dad. It could have been different if he had wanted it so. Men know that women have the upper hand in this society. If they want to be part of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives it behooves them to submit. There is no solution except in with-drawling from this society.as did Christian in Pilgrims Progress.

  11. I find the typical Christian male so emasculated that Bibical understanding is beyond his ability to achieve. It’s like we read different Bibles and have different God’s.

    Way to much talk about compassion; no where near enough talk about God being the God war, commander of the Host and the God justice

  12. sfcton:
    You’re right: I’d also add the dumbing-down of schools has made the Bible incomprehensible even to church leaders.

  13. The problem is that many of us that grew up in the “church” never really understood how to study the Word, children’s church was basically children regurgitating Bible verses and overly simplified stories with sing-alongs. Like right now, I want to study, but I lack any structure or any idea of where to find resources such as what words were really used for instance Thou shalt not kill is not kill, why, because when Jesus spoke of the commandments he said the greek word for murder which changes not kill from 100% pacifist to 100% against killing innocent life. Guess my question would be how did you start studying, I can read the Bible all day long it doesn’t mean I’d be studying the meanings of it.

  14. Studying the Bible is challenging, but very worthwhile for the individual Christian. I would suggest getting a translation you like to read, and using the internet to cross reference and find commentary. Bible Gateway is a good example. While some advocate reading the Gospels and Epistles first, I think that reading it from beginning to end is much more valuable. There are many references to the Old Testament made by Jesus in the New Testament; there are many concepts that are hard enough to understand without a sense of ancient history without reading them out of context. A good example is the temptation by Jesus by Satan. Each time Jesus or Satan speaks they are quoting from the Psalms or the books of Moses. Understanding the quotations in context is important to understand the nature of Christ’s faith and resistance to temptation.

    It’s very hard as well to find a good study group, I’ve found. A lot of people prefer to read books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself. I don’t knock the idea of books about the Bible, but I think that it’s very important to be well versed in it.

    I would also say that the Bible needs to be approached with the assumption that it will at times be confusing or even incomprehensible. This is not unreasonable–it’s an old book written in another time. It’s full of historical references, songs of praise, prayers, prophecies, folk tale like stories, wars, marriages, atrocities, miracles, advice, and poetry. There are cultural things in it that are no longer in popular reference. I think abandoning the idea that is very popular these days that the Bible will somehow miraculously enlighten you is a good thing. When it is described as being like a sword in the Book of Ephesians, think of learning to use a sword. It takes conditioning, training, focus. So since most people are not accustomed to studying old literature it is no different from working on sword work. The mental muscles need to be built up, concentration needs to grow stronger, the desire to learn must be exercised. It must be understood that it is work, but rewarding work, and like most rewarding work, there will be times when it doesn’t seem rewarding and just seems like work.

    I hope this is encouraging. I started reading the Bible without any training or any seminars or college to back me up, I’ve found devoted study does work.

  15. Thanks sojourner, I’ll have to find me a Bible that has it translated into modern speech and cross reference like you said, and every so often read the historical significance of everything such as why it was so odd that Jesus would talk to the Samaritan woman which was because Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along to say the least.

  16. wibbins – poke through this site. It has a wealth of information. Don’t worry about sequence. Just find something that interests you, and start there second.


    Start here first:

    As you read, concepts and themes will be discussed. Google on a phrase that describes the concept or theme, and then read whatever catches your eye there. Keep in mind there is a lot of nonesense on the internet. The CRI stuff can help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the other stuff you read.

    Start here third:

    Poke around the links given on the right side of the page.

    All of this will shed light on what is discussed in the Bible. That should help you when actually reading the Bible. Godspeed and good reading.

  17. LOL another start to finish man. Really I think the info that affects daily living in the most positive and timely manner is in the Old Testament.

  18. Well what’s the alternative for start to finish? Pick and choose? Folks read your bible. All of it. And pray for understanding.

  19. I pick and chose now, but read the Bible front to back three times before the picking and choosing stuff. Probably read it the Bible front to back an other 3 times over the years. I read the Gospels this time of year but otherwise it’s the Old Testament for me most of the year, skipping anything that has to do with temple construction and the like.

  20. @wibbins: Any Bible you read is a translation. Even if you are fluent in Greek and Hebrew, the Bible you read will be a translation. The Bible you read will also always be a copy. It will not be the original manuscript. It does not matter which translation you read. What matters is if you have a way to know what the ‘original’ words were and what other ways that same word may be translated. The two most available resources I use are:1) http://www.apostolic-churches.net/bible/strongs.html which is the Kings James version with Strong’s words. Strong’s original concordance is very good,(not perfect) and easy to use. If you scroll to the bottom of the web page you will find that you can search for any word,( church,submit,fear, etc.) and also specify which books you want to search in. After reading the selected words in context, you can then go to this website; http://biblehub.com/interlinear/ and enter the Strong’s number and see every place in the Bible that the word was used, even if that word was translated many different ways. The websites also have access to many different commentaries if you want to see what they may think of that particular word/passage. I disagree with the idea that the Word of God is confusing or incomprehensible. It is God’s desire that you understand and God Himself will help you to fulfill His desire if that is also your desire. That is a promise of God, and it is also a fact. God bless you in your seeking.

  21. Have you read “Dressed to Kill” by Rick Renner? It’s an excellent treatise on the “Armor of God” that breaks down very specifically what each piece of armor is, and how to practice putting it on. It also includes a detailed analysis (with pictures) of the armor of a Roman soldier at the time of Paul’s writing – so readers can understand the context of the metaphors Paul was thinking about, penning those passages while chained to a Roman guard.

    I agree that the Word is important and under utilized. What I also find disconcerting is a lack of desire to understand the Word in its original languages. People seem to prefer instead to read whatever translation makes them feel best; cling to scriptures that support their doctrinal position without reconciling them with contradictory scriptures; are not concerned with the fact every glorious and high name of our living creator has been obliterated in nearly every English translation in vogue and replaced with two titles (“God” and “LORD”); and are similarly not concerned with the fact that Jesus was not Jesus’ name when he walked the Earth.

    If we are to give place to the Word, it seems to me (in my limited human understanding) that we ought to be trying to ensure that it is His Word, and not our favored paraphrasing of various translations of it.

    Thanks for the post and be blessed.

  22. Approach the NIV of bible gateway with caution as its the 2011 feminist translation very similar to its blatantly leftist earlier gender-neutral translation.

  23. re: start to finish. There are plenty of daily Bible reading charts designed to help one read the whole thing through. This year our church’s reading schedule was chronological.

  24. Lots of good suggestions from people. I agree that it’s important to consider what words mean as well as know what words are there. I think there are a lot of good resources about the history within the Bible too, and it’s important to be a life long learner about the Bible, never letting yourself get complacent.

    For a class of kids I teach I have a book on weapons and armour I have used as well as online videos to describe the armour of God, and we’re building a set of them so that they can physically act stuff out as well as learn about it theoretically.

  25. Sojourner:
    Another suggestion would be to read the writings of St. John, the Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude and a good edition of the Apostolic Fathers for commentary on the rest.

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