The kind of faith we want

Adrian Warnock quotes a South African New Frontiers leader

Do you want that kind of faith that pleases God … 
and violently advances the kingdom of God?

My response. Absolutely not.

My prayer is that we can learn from the Word, from Christ himself to renounce violence as he did. To learn from him that his kingdom is one of peace, mercy, compassion, love, faithfulness and hope where violence has no place.

Talk of violently advancing  the kingdom of God has no place whatsoever in Christian teaching. Not only is it not of the kingdom but in today’s climate it is positively dangerous. We only have to think about how many terrorists has believed they were advancing the kingdom of God.

To be as fair as possible here is a fuller quote to judge context.

“The Word will bring you faith. Romans 10:17 makes this one crystal clear. Do you want that kind of faith that pleases God, causes the impossible to become the possible, moves mountains, destroys satanic strongholds, and violently advances the kingdom of God? It comes from hearing and hearing and hearing and hearing the things that God has to say!

From: P-J Smyth – E-books and Sermons From a Newfrontiers Church in Johannesburg.

Oh and by the way we could also discuss much else about the use of this text. For example it separates Jesus and the Bible in an unhelpful way (one that is incompatible with the prologue to John’s gospel as one example). It also does not support the central point that he is trying to make (that it is the word that brings faith). See Romans 10:17:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

The “word about Christ” here cannot mean the Bible. The context surrounding it makes that clear, plus of course there is the minor detail that the Bible was not yet available (you have to take the very earliest possible dates of the gospels to believe any had even been written, given the lack of interest in any of the details of the life of Jesus it seems unlikely Paul was reading them).

Instead the focus is on faith coming from hearing about Christ. Hearing rather than reading.

No I won’t be rushing to read this book or listen to these sermons (at least not to help me grow in faith).

30 thoughts on “The kind of faith we want

  1. PamBG

    OK, the full quote is:
    Do you want that kind of faith that pleases God, causes the impossible to become the possible, moves mountains, destroys satanic strongholds, and violently advances the kingdom of God? It comes from hearing and hearing and hearing and hearing the things that God has to say!
    I can’t see how it makes what he said any better. Maybe ‘violence’ was not a carefully-chosen word, but it would still make me suspicious of his heart.
    To those of us who believe that non-violence is at the heart of the Kingdom of God, it’s like saying ‘Are you ready to sin to advance the Kingdom of God?’ The answer, of course, is ‘No, because sinning will not bring about the Kingdom of God.’ That’s one of the reasons that Christ died for our sins rather than killed for our sins (the later being what everyone wanted him to do).
    And it also makes me wonder if the speaker has ‘really heard’ the things God has to say.

    Reply
  2. CFG

    Hi Dave
    I’m definitely not an AW fan, but I wasn’t sure what you were getting so upset about here in particular…
    It’s a clumsy exposition of Romans 10.17 certainly, “So faith from hearing, and hearing by the word (spoken) about Christ” (from NASB) – he’s changing what is clearly a reference to the gospel, to a reference to the Bible as a whole, but I’m not sure it’s worth making that much fuss about. Paul is pointing out that people have to *hear* the gospel in order to have saving faith and PJS seems to be saying that transforming faith comes by *hearing* the word of God in a wider sense. I don’t think I have any issue with that!
    On the issue of ‘violently advancing’, I agree it’s an unfortunate choice of words. He’s taking it from Matt 11.12 (prob the NIV), a difficult verse for which there have been various different readings… “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (NIV)or “…the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” (NASB) “…the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.” (TNIV)
    I’m a bit of a Greg Boyd junkie, and if you know anything about him you’ll know that non-violence is one of his big themes – I’m right there with him on that one! Any kind of ‘forcefulness’ we might want to have in advancing the kingdom should be expressed in outrageously loving our enemies etc. But I guess PJS is talking about spiritual warfare, for which we probably do need a bit of grit. I don’t think I’d express it in that way though!
    Blessings,
    CFG

    Reply
  3. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    I do not think in anyway that is comparable. Read the fuller quote I included, or the original post by Adrian. I did not change the meaning at all. I simply removed some items from the list to make the point more clear.
    The original quote is clear that we should want a kind of faith that has a number of signs/effects one of which is “violently advances the kingdom of God”
    So I stand by my quote and have two challenges:
    a) Where do we get the message from that verse in Romans or anywhere else in scripture that Christians need to have faith that violently advances the kingdom?
    b) Where is there any evidence that Jesus taught that the kingdom can be brought in by violence?

    Reply
  4. Dave Warnock

    CFG,
    About the exposition. I find it more than clumsy, it is indicative of a problematical mindset. One that claims to take scripture seriously while not actually reading texts carefully, thoughtfully and in context.
    As for the violence in Matt 11:12 there are a number of problems.
    a) if that is what PJS is referring to then a reference would be good.
    b) randomly inserting verses into an argument with reference or context does not take scripture seriously.
    c) Yes the NIV is out on a limb here (even the ESV has the kingdom suffering violence and the violent taking it by force).
    d) My NIV study bible notes have “forceful men lay hold of it. They enter the kingdom and become Christ’s disciples. To do this takes spiritual courage, vigour, power and determination because of ever-present persecution”. Little or no support for violence there.
    d) Matt 11:28-30 do not support a violent reading of 11:12
    e) the most common readings seem to be of the kingdom being attacked by violence not built by violence. Only that reading is consistent with the behaviour of Jesus when arrested and with his teaching recorded in the sermon on the mount.
    Surely our model should be Jesus. He had any number of opportunities (and certainly lots of expectation) to violently bring in the Kingdom. yet he chose no violence.
    We need to separate clearly in our minds a number of concepts. Violence is not the only way to show determination and strength. Violence does not prove you are not a wimp. A non-violent Jesus is not weak.
    The expression is totally unhelpful whether we are talking about spiritual warfare or anything else. Violence attacks the kingdom in no way does it advance it – if that were the case the cross would be failure by Jesus (obviously I do not believe the cross to be a failure).

    Reply
  5. Dave Warnock

    Andy,
    “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.
    How can you use weapons and fight without being voilent?”

    Ok same problems.
    A reference would be a good start. 2 Corinthians 10:4
    Read 2 Corinthians 10 which begins “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ”. Consider that Paul is saying we do not use weapons as the world understands weapons, instead we use argument, logic, thinking. Paul is not recommending violence of any kind and he did not choose to use it in his own life.
    If the weapons are discussion, logic, and thinking then this is not violence in the normal use of the word.
    If you say “Dave is a violent man” nobody is going to think you mean that I out argue you in a discussion through better logic and thinking.

    Reply
  6. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Dave: I am starting to wonder if you just read what you wish to see, then take apart what you have understood you have read.
    Why not email PJ Smyth?
    Why not ask questions on here?
    Questions for you:
    1) Do you honestly think anyone is at any point suggesting we use violence or act violently?
    2) Have you asked PJ?
    3) Are you suggesting a Christian leader from Zimbabwe, living in one of the most violent cities on earth (Jo’burg), promotes violence?
    I would suggest dropping him an email, seeing if he agrees it is an unfortunate choice of words, or not, then printing the dialogue.
    Would that not be a bit more constructive?
    It just feels like you scan Adrian’s blog looking for any minute detail you can be offended by, extrapolate all kinds of negative meanings from it and then use it to issue a papal bull against another newfrontiers pastor/conference speaker / blogger you have been offended by.

    Reply
  7. Blue, with a hint of amber

    If it read “passionately” would that be better?
    What about “powerfully”?
    What about “mightily”?
    What about “urgently”?
    What about “unrestrainedly”? (is that even a word?)
    What about “greatly”?
    “Forcefully”?
    “Frantically”?
    Those are all synonyms of the word “violent”. Along with lots of m0ore aggressive and negative connotation words. I guess it just depends on your willingness to look at someone’s positive intention, or find something to criticise.
    If he had said “passionately” would you be criticising him because it has synonyms like “erotic” and “lustful”?

    Reply
  8. Andy

    “If the weapons are discussion, logic, and thinking then this is not violence in the normal use of the word.”
    Exactly.

    Reply
  9. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    “I am starting to wonder if you just read what you wish to see, then take apart what you have understood you have read.”
    I am sorry but I do not understand how that fits with this situation.
    “Why not email PJ Smyth?” I don’t have an email address. I was responding to a blog post via a blog post (as comments are not an available option) – that seems to me to be a natural thing to do.
    “Why not ask questions on here?” Just personal style preference I guess.
    “1) Do you honestly think anyone is at any point suggesting we use violence or act violently?” How do you get from “violently advancing the kingdom” to thinking nobody is suggesting we use violence or act violently?
    “2) Have you asked PJ?” See above
    “3) Are you suggesting a Christian leader from Zimbabwe, living in one of the most violent cities on earth (Jo’burg), promotes violence?” I am suggesting that language like this is inappropriate and bad teaching. If, as you assert and I hope PJS does not promote violence then why use the language?
    “I would suggest dropping him an email, seeing if he agrees it is an unfortunate choice of words, or not, then printing the dialogue.” Feel free to do so, I am willing to publish the result. I have had little success in the past with that approach and Adrian which maybe influenced me.
    “Would that not be a bit more constructive?” Maybe.
    “It just feels like you scan Adrian’s blog looking for any minute detail you can be offended by, extrapolate all kinds of negative meanings from it and then use it to issue a papal bull against another newfrontiers pastor/conference speaker / blogger you have been offended by.” I am sorry you see it that way. If you look at my blogroll you will see I read quite a few blogs. I react to some, some inform me.
    I do not understand why you think the phrase (in a relatively small section picked especially by Adrian) challenging us to want faith that violently advances the kingdom is a minor thing. It really does not seem a minor thing to me.
    I posted because it is not just someone preaching this but a prominent blogger endorsing it and thereby shouting to the world that Christians believe in advancing the kingdom by violence. Do you really not think that is a problem?

    Reply
  10. Dave Warnock

    Bwoahoa and Andy,
    You both seem eager to persuade me that the word violent means something different to my dictionary. Read the original quote. Take it into the street and ask people how they understand this. Post 9/11 I am confident on the interpretation that will be used. If anyone is preaching and not aware of how this expression is going to be understood then why is that not a problem?

    Reply
  11. Blue, with a hint of amber

    “…destroys satanic strongholds, and violently advances the kingdom of God”
    When a satanic stronghold is “destroyed” – is “violence” done to it?
    “Violence” towards satanic strongholds? “Attacking” them? “Destroying” them? “Overpowering” them?
    Did Jesus not do that? Was “violence” done to Legion?
    is it just a case of semantics / terminology?
    How do you get from “violently advancing the kingdom” to thinking nobody is suggesting we use violence or act violently?
    Do you honestly believe an attempt is being made to advocate using physical violence. I mean, honestly, do you?
    Are you writing off someone’s teaching on the basis of one word which may have been chosen better? Is this criticism and decision that it will “not help you to grow in faith” based on one word in a short excerpt from one piece of writing?
    I don’t think you would react like this if it had not been on Adrian’s blog.

    Reply
  12. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    Sorry but the sentence structure does not connect “…destroys satanic strongholds, and violently advances the kingdom of God”
    I do not know what was intended. I am commenting on how inappropriate & inaccurate the language is and how it will be commonly interpreted.
    I have not written off someone’s entire teaching. I have argued that this sample shows poor theology and exegesis. I have said that it does not encourage me to read more. That is a far cry from your language of papal decrees and writing off a person.
    I submit that I wind many people up and have reacted to many other blogs.

    Reply
  13. Blue, with a hint of amber

    That is a far cry from your language of papal decrees and writing off a person.
    I apologise for using those terms as they were unhelpful.
    Of your last 9 posts 6 of them are disagreeing with stuff on Adrian’s site. I thought this one was the most pedantic post. It just seems a bit odd to me.
    Maybe you should rename this site http://www.notadrianwarnock.com?
    (that is a joke!)
    I think I get a bit confused with “and how it will be commonly interpreted.” because I don’t read it like that at all.

    Reply
  14. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    Glad you are keeping count. Yes I do try to keep a proper balance on 42 and having 2/3 of the posts responding to nonsense from Adrian is about right :-)
    Of course Adrian does write to provoke a response and I do seem to have particularly weak resistance to poor theology being praised to the skies.
    However, I often find it strange how some posts seem so controversial. This one is a good example.
    To me the language of “faith that pleases God … and violently advances the kingdom of God” is so clearly and outrageously alien to the life. teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus that it is just not controversial. I am just gob smacked that anyone would think this is good stuff and would argue in support of it.
    Maybe I am missing some gospels, like the ones where Jesus forms an army and defeats the Romans to bring in the kingdom. Maybe where Jesus does bring down a host of angels to defend him when he is arrested.
    Maybe the book of Acts got badly edited at some point. So Stephen actually stoned the Sanhedrin and Paul beat up those who tried to throw him out of their towns.
    Have you tried asking people outside the Church how they would understand this? I suspect this language comes from a particular sub-culture within evangelicalism where this language is frequently used and it’s code is understood. But the plain English meaning is quite different.
    Oh and by the way I have downloaded the whole booklet and there are other examples of poor use of language eg “Get into the word and become armed and dangerous!” (in “3. The Word will bring you victory over the devil”).
    The whole booklet supports my second point in the original post. It is in danger of creating worship of a book and ignoring God: Father, Son and Spirit. It is the book that is described as giving power and transforming us rather than God at work in us. Sorry but shot through with poor theology – not recommended.

    Reply
  15. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    You wrote:
    “Are you suggesting a Christian leader from Zimbabwe, living in one of the most violent cities on earth (Jo’burg), promotes violence?”
    Now having read “The Sword” I am horrified that a Christian Leader living and working in that context uses the phrases he does without even once making it clear that these are metaphors, that at least he is only talking about spiritual violence.
    I do not believe that violent imagery and warlike language is helpful in understanding the gospel. But for heavens sake if you are going to use it in a violent society please make sure that it is absolutely clear how you are using it. This e-book is there for downloading with and nowhere does it tell you that the Word is telling you to not respond to the violence of your society with violence. No where does it say violence is wrong, that Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not to take revenge.
    This is scary.

    Reply
  16. Peter Kirk

    Dave, I must say I am puzzled. When I read the passage you quoted, I assumed that it was referring to spiritual warfare against “satanic strongholds”, the words you carefully edited out which imply to me that the proposed “violence” is of a purely spiritual character. But if indeed nowhere in the wider context this guy explains that more clearly, in a world where some Christians are using actual physical violence against their enemies, I agree with you that the spiritual nature of our warfare, 2 Corinthians 10:4, should have been spelled out more clearly.

    Reply
  17. Dave Warnock

    Peter,
    Puzzlement is my middle name.
    Seriously I don’t see how the phrase about violence fits with the satanic strongholds in the original sentence. There is a list of things that come from faith:
    - causes the impossible to become the possible
    - moves mountains
    - destroys satanic strongholds
    - violently advances the kingdom of God
    Anyway, enough already!

    Reply
  18. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Sorry if you have already called “time” on this one. I am genuinely interested.
    Ahh, that is because I am passionate about the gospel and non-violence
    Do you think Paul was passionate about the gospel and non-violence?
    2 Tim 2:3-4
    3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier
    Soldiers? Warfare?
    Using the expression “fought”? (1 Corinthians 9:26)
    Encouraging Timothy to “fight”? (1 Timothy 1:18)(1 Timothy 6:12)
    Worship is equated with a trumpet call for “battle”? (1 Cor 14:8)
    Fellow Christian brothers called fellow “soldiers”? (Philippians 2:25, Philemon 1:2)
    The “weapons” we “fight with”? (2 Cor 10:4)
    The bible is a “sword”? (Eph 6:13)
    I don’t believe Paul promoted violence at all by the way, nor do I think this justifies using language which can be easily misunderstood. But it is interesting – over the breadth of Paul’s teaching you could paint him as quite an aggressive chap if you just plucked out selected verses.
    He saw himself as a soldier, who with his fellow soldiers, was engaged in a battle, using his sword, to fight.
    That too, is not far off a description of a modern terrorist. Just substitute the sword for an AK-47.
    And yet he did not lift a finger to hurt people, endured unimaginable suffering for the sake of the gospel, promoted peace between Jews and Gentiles, and remembered the poor.

    Reply
  19. Peter Kirk

    Indeed, Blue. It is quite clear that for Paul, and Jesus, all of this language about violence and warfare was metaphorical. If we use such language we also need to make clear that we are using it metaphorically. The speaker Dave quotes was perhaps not careful enough to do this. In some circumstances it may be wiser to avoid this language altogether, especially if even a trained Methodist minister is likely to misunderstand it.

    Reply
  20. PamBG

    To be honest, I think it would be best to avoid this sort of metaphorical language. Particularly when, in the US, you have people who make statements like carrying a gun is a basic God-given human right; and particularly when these people claim that pacifism is not Christian. (See recent post on Connexions)
    I guess if you think that ‘the coming of the Kingdom of God’ is only an eschatological, supernatural thing and that it has nothing to do with the here and now, you might think in terms of metaphorical violence. But I think that the coming of the Kingdom of God is both something that God calls us to work for in the here and now and something that is eschatological and supernatural. So, even given that Paul used the language of violent metaphor, I think it’s better to avoid it.
    I came across a wonderful phrase in a prayer this morning: the idea that God’s justice destroys violence by making violence turn on itself. These words express exactly what I think. We will never be spiritually peaceful if, instead of asking God to forgive and heal our anger, we ask God to destroy our unrest. It’s like constantly slapping a child and then wondering why they become angry and violent.

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  21. Adrian Warnock

    Wow! Once again, I am glad that what seemed to me like a simple post that would be uncontroversial has prompted such a lot of thought and dialogue. Its actually very helpful for me, as I really hadnt realised that language about spiritual warfare would be offensive to anyone.
    There is no doubt that within the christian culture I have been brought up in, we understand that Christians are meant to be violently agressive in our fight AGAINST THE DEVIL, but not wage war against the people of this world in any way. I think the violent language of Paul highlighted above is important for us to understand and apply. I worry that if we remove all language suggestive of such passion, then we risk alienating the silent majority of non-effeminate men (you know the kind of guys that watch top gear and boxing). O yes, isnt that exactly what HAS happened in all too many churches which are now filled almost exclusively with women?

    Reply
  22. Dave Warnock

    Adrian,
    a) The quote does not indicate that the violence is supposed to be spiritual.
    b) The e-book uses a lot of violent language but I only spotted one place where the violence was mentioned against the devil and again it did not talk about spiritual violence.
    If we have a choice between changing the gospel in order to attract young men and sticking with the real gospel I know which I will choose.
    There is absolutely no way that you are going to convince me that the violent Jesus that Mark Driscoll talks about so much comes from the gospels.

    Reply
  23. Dave Warnock

    Adrian,
    Also on the violence theme. Is it spiritual violence when PJS teaches you to smack your children with a wooden spoon until they cry? See his e-book on parenting.
    The trouble with all this talk of violence even if you think you are talking about spiritual warfare is that it leaks out into the real world – at which point you have lost sight of Jesus, his teaching and his kingdom.

    Reply

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