Part 1 generated some good conversation offline. I hope this addition is as beneficial to the readers.  Here are two more to consider.

#1 Micah 4:3

There are passages of Scripture that are taken so much for granted that we think we know what they mean. That’s one of our human tendencies.  We become so familiar with an idea that we either forget or unwilling to reexamine the idea once the social and/or theological context has changed. One such passage is Micah 4:3, or at least the middle of it, where it is said

Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.

This one gets quoted all over the place.  It’s not so much that it is misquoted (though that remains true) but that we can easily tend to mix up different systematic theologies and not even realize it.

The nineteenth century was dominated by postmillennialism.  During that time it was commmicah43only taught that the Lord would return when we had finally prepared the kingdom for Him.  (There’s a lot there to discuss, much more than we have either time or space to deal with here.)  One over-arching principle of interpretation was to apply eschatological statements to the current situation as though they reflected current reality. Thus peace would be brought to the earth by Christians and Christianity with and through the Gospel.

I have never myself heard or read any dispensationalist or premillennialist misquote this passage.  The real misuse of it comes from the secular postmillennialist.  (Yes, there is such a thing.[1])  The Progressive Era brought this movement into the foreground, leading to the League of Nations and later the United Nations. To the right you see their statue.

There is a sense where this image resembles Renaissance art.  It lifts up for all to see a powerful human being, one able to accomplish his goals.  What it excludes is God.  It follows the progressive idea that we can build a new world, that we can bring about peace for all nations.  Through dialogue and understanding we might accomplish what the world has sought for all its history — that all might flourish.

Oddly enough the U.N. has not been able to accomplish its goals in any honorable manner.  The organization maintains a cooperative military force.  Oddly enough it has, in recent decades, used that force and other coercive efforts against both Christians (notably in the Balkans) and Jews (condemning Israel’s efforts at self-preservation while trivializing the attackers’ actions). Judaism, with Christianity as its partner, is the source for this inspiration — the very ones being attacked.  Where there is a military and coercion there is not that peace and security promised, especially when it is used against peaceful people.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah often gets misquoted.  Both liberalism and postmodernism like this passage because it provides, for them, a definition of a proper faith.  Evangelicals like it for other reasons.  Postmoderns, liberals, liberationists, and revolution theologians see this as the definition of a valid and substantial faith.  According to one liberation theologian

… what liberation theology says is that the Reign of God is to be built in history — together with other human beings, hence the radical ecumenism of the concept of the Reign of God — and that, in the light of faith, we see ourselves to be on the road, as we accomplish this partial construction, to the definitive Reign of God. Like the prophet Micah, the theology of liberation knows very well waht is to be done: “To do right and to love goodness” (Micah 6:8), to foster the life of the poor in history.  And like that prophet, the theology of liberation has faith in what in the last analysis this practice means: “To walk humbly with your God” (ibid.) in history. The former calls for a constant posting of signs that shape the Reign, denouncing the anti-Reign, and proposing forms of more abundant life for the poor.[2]

From Gustavo Gutierrez

“The God of Exodus is the God of history and of political liberation more than he is the God of nature,” writes Gutiérrez in A Theology of Liberation. Throughout Scripture, we see God’s merciful love for the poor and oppressed demonstrated through Spirit-led eruptions of freedom in the travail of history. God loves all people and longs to see them flourish. When Israel disobeys the ten commandments, God raised up prophets to call them back to communion with God. The prophet Micah sums up the prophetic imperative: “What does the Lord require of you, O mortal? But to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).  In a Hebrew chiasm is a literary device used by poets that unveils the main idea in the middle. Tucked between justice and humility, merciful love is at the heart of Micah’s message and is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching of Kingdom of God.[3]
While the efforts of all these quoted pieces are very spiritual they reflect a narrow view of salvation, a works-oriented view. It is a salvation of the world where Christ has come to redeem from the pains of life.  We also teach some of that. That’s why every effective missionary you will ever meet has become engaged with the human need around him or her. It is why Christians run hospitals and rescue missions.  But we do not do these things with either violence as a method or, and most importantly, apart from the redemptive message or Christ.  We must not ignore what the Bible teaches about charity for the Christian.[4]  Still that is not, as we know, the sum total of salvation in Christ. The misinterpretation of this as sufficient for salvation reinforces liberal theology and misses its history.


[1] See Gray, John, “Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia” for a survey of the theological foundations of modern liberalism and progressivism.  Though Gray is no friend of Christianity he does provide us with a useful history of liberal thought and principles covering the last century, plus some.

[2] Sobrino, Jon (Author, Editor), and Ellacuria, Ignacio (Editor) “Systematic Theology: Perspectives from Liberation Theology (Readings from Mysterium Liberationis), Orbis Books (English translation), 1996, p. 72

[3] See more at:, cited 1/23/2016

[4] It is quite easy, during an election cycle, to defend capitalism against the persistent attacks by the variety of Marxists and more moderate socialists while being naive regarding the human need generated by an ungodly capitalism.  Though we would disagree with the liberation and revolution theologian on many areas regarding the definition and application of the Christian faith they nevertheless remind us of human need which is often easily ignored.  There is a Judeo-Christian and Biblical sense of social justice which differs significantly from both the Marxist and postmodern theological propositions. It is one more tool for the advance of the gospel.