Critiquing a Monstrous Manifesto

The shooter’s manifesto is long, its logic twisted, its "theology" wretched; all of which needs to be condemned.

Should people seek to punish Jews for their role in Jesus’ crucifixion? To answer that, consider what the rest of the New Testament does when referring back to the event of Jesus’ death. Is there a call to arms? Are we to seek revenge? Should we malign and curse? No, quite the contrary, in fact. Throughout the New Testament, the preaching of the Apostles recognizes the sinful actions of men in history and simultaneously glories in the sovereign purpose of the God who reigns over history. The Apostles’ response, without exception, is then to offer the risen Jesus to both Jew and Gentile. The crucifixion of Jesus is no reason to harbor hatred for Jews.

 

Unless you live under a rock, by now it is no secret that the accused shooter in the recent synagogue shooting came from the ranks, even the rolls, of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) congregation. The actions carried out in Poway, Calif., on April 27, 2019, were wicked. Sadly, the wickedness did not cease when the shots ceased being fired. Rather, they continued through the furious, factious, and slanderous speculation perpetuated on all forms of social media, not to mention the mainstream.

What has grieved my heart as a relatively silent observer (until now) is that the tone and scope of the conversation among and about brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ reflects the unguarded and ungodly tone that adorns unbelieving culture’s conversation. Similar to Carl Trueman’s point in his very helpful post, we cannot adopt the attitude of “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

In the wake of the wickedness once again thrust before us, everyone who has committed to or acted upon anything other than humble, heart-searching reflection has, in my estimation, embarked upon the wrong initial course. That goes for OPC ministers, elders, and members who want to try to evade the hard task of introspection by shrugging off any notion of a corporate complicity, and also for those who would like to lob stones at a church without any mention of the slew of problems within their own.

On and on it goes. All the while, the great sower of discord among brethren continues to hide in plain sight while Christians seek to resist one another instead of him. So he does not flee.

I would like to submit a different course of action, one that I believe we can all agree upon, and one that ought to be at the center of attention for all Christians of whatever stripe. God was blasphemed in that manifesto. His Word was taken up and wickedly misapplied, perverted, misinterpreted, and abused. His name was not used in a holy or reverent manner, but profanely and deplorably used as justification for murder. Sadly, some have decided to take this as an opportunity to level accusations against the system of doctrine to which the manifesto alluded (see here and here).

In my estimation, and not at all to take away from the seriousness of murder and wickedness, this issue deserves our closest attention and careful analysis. To that I now turn, by God’s grace, and may He bless it for the sake of His name and Church. The manifesto is long, its logic twisted, its “theology” wretched. I cannot bring forward everything that needs condemnation, so I will limit my comments, such as they are, to the following four categories.

Misuse of Scripture

In rapid succession the manifesto lists five passages of Scripture, all apparently leveraged to justify murdering Jews. This is not the first time that the perfect, life-giving Word of God has been twisted and misused (Gen 3:1), nor will it be the last (2 Peter 2:1). All such error is blasphemy.

One example of such misuse of God’s Word in the manifesto is the reference to Stephen, the first martyr of the Early Church. That saint spoke these final words while being murdered at the hands of Jews, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60); a far cry from justification for murder.

In addition to Stephen, the manifesto lists the Apostle Paul among the ‘heroes’ who inspired violence toward Jews. Paul, or more accurately Saul at that time, was an ear-witness to Stephen’s last plea. After his conversion to Jesus Christ, Paul suffered bitterly at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles, and it is worth mentioned that Jews were his primary opponents. Nevertheless, Paul nowhere leveraged his history of maltreatment to call Christians to unholy war against Jews. In fact, he stated in no uncertain terms how willing he would be to be cut off from Christ if they could be saved (Romans 9:1-5).

My final and preeminent example is the Lord Jesus himself. In His confrontations with the Jews of his day—particularly the godless religious elites—He spoke clearly, condemning their sin and exposing their hearts (as in John 8:37-45, cited in the manifesto). But when it came time for Him to suffer, which He did with astonishing willingness (Mark 14:36), He made the good confession before Pontius Pilate. The Lord specifically said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my Kingdom is not from this world.”

Clearly Jesus, when He was reviled, did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, much less did He take up arms or call others to the same, but rather He continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23-25). And while entrusting Himself in that manner, He bore in His body sin that was not his own, in order to make wretched sinners His own, sinners like me and you. I cannot expect the unbelieving world to understand—or even care—about the blasphemous misuse of God’s holy Word, but it ought to grieve all those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.

Twisted Theology

Full disclosure, I am a Christian who happens to be a Calvinist, and unashamedly so. Another full disclosure, biblical Calvinism had nothing to do with this vicious act. You may read that and think I am doing the typical “distance yourself from the murderer” act, but I am not. I grieve over loss of life, broken congregations, and how heinous crimes like this one mar the witness of Christ’s people. Allow me to show you what I mean.

The manifesto is correct when it states, “Plenty of people wrongfully identify with being Christian.” The discussion of the Triune God which follows, including His eternal will and the decreed glory of the Son in the salvation of each and every one of his redeemed people is true in and of itself. But as it is used in the manifesto, it is a proverb in the mouth of fools (Prov 26:7).

When the Father made his sovereign and mysterious decree to redeem the elect in Christ (Eph 1:3-4), he did so in order that each one, regenerated and reclaimed in time and space, would one day stand before him in holiness and perfect glory. From eternity God freely made the decree that the only way to obtain that indescribable goal (1 Cor 2:9) would be through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the eternal Son of God. No one else could represent sinful humans sinlessly. No one else could endure the wrath of God vicariously. No one else could be the Mediator between God and man, except the man Jesus Christ.

It is this Jesus that real, genuine, God-glorifying Christians, and Calvinists, trust for salvation. It is this Jesus that we must freely offer to a world in sin. And it is through the Spirit-blessed preaching of this Jesus and faithful witness to the same that more and more Jews and Gentiles will come into salvation through faith alone.

The manifesto states, “I did not choose to be a Christian.” True enough, for neither does anyone who continues to live in sin and darkness, nor anyone who hates his brother. The Scriptures say, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). This does not mean that murderers cannot find forgiveness—they can and do only in Christ—but rather that unrepentant, hate-filled souls know nothing of the life of genuine faith.

I would like to make this very clear to everyone. I am as committed a Reformed Calvinist as you will ever find. And I testify today that because of the grace of God in my own life, I did choose to become a Christian. I did so most freely and willingly, for the Holy Spirit showed me my wretched sin and misery, he gave life to my dead soul and light to my blind eyes. He kindly and mercifully persuaded me to trust in Jesus, just as He has with all those who have come to Jesus in faith. I plead with you to do the same.

Misapplication of Blame

The manifesto also blasphemously claims the prerogative to send Jews to hell for their role in Jesus’ murder. That raises two controversial questions. First, who was guilty for crucifying Jesus? If anyone can comment on culpability, it would be the Lord Himself. In John 19, Pilate actually considered releasing Jesus, but eventually played the coward, capitulating in his desire to please the mob.

Before spinelessly washing his hands of the matter, he tried to reason with the Lord of Glory, who stood before him like a sheep before the slaughter. Pilate said, “Do you not know that I have the authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore, he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Jesus’ words are abundantly clear: both Pilate and the Jews were guilty, with the latter bearing more responsibility.

This leads to the second question: should people seek to punish Jews for their role in Jesus’ crucifixion? To answer that, consider what the rest of the New Testament does when referring back to the event of Jesus’ death. Is there a call to arms? Are we to seek revenge? Should we malign and curse? No, quite the contrary, in fact.

Throughout the New Testament, the preaching of the Apostles (see Acts 2:22-24) recognizes the sinful actions of men in history and simultaneously glories in the sovereign purpose of the God who reigns over history. The Apostles’ response, without exception, is then to offer the risen Jesus to both Jew and Gentile. The crucifixion of Jesus is no reason to harbor hatred for Jews.

On the other hand, it is not “anti-Semitic” to assign Jews blame for Jesus crucifixion. I, for one, am grateful, and will be eternally so, that God the Father used the sinful intentions of Jews and the cruel wickedness of Roman soldiers to accomplish the Son’s cursed death on the cross. Through it, God did what no man could ever do, namely, secure eternal redemption for sinners (Heb 9:23).

If you read this and hate Jews because of what they did, you are worse than a fool. Humanly speaking, the crucifixion was a worldwide, Jew and Gentile, conspiracy against God’s Anointed One (Ps 2; Acts 4:24-28). I would much prefer you to be wise and embrace the life that is offered in Jesus the Son of God. He Himself is the only way to true peace, for He made both Jew and Gentile one by breaking down the wall of hostility, a wall that white supremacists, race mongers, blasphemers, and all those who live outside of Christ ultimately seek to rebuild.

Deadly Blasphemy in Practice

I want to close with one final chilling—and almost true—statement from the manifesto. “My God understands why I did what I did.” Everything about that sentence is correct, except for one word: “my.” For God to be your God, not merely as Creator, but as the Covenant God of Psalm 63 or Exodus 20:1 or John 20:28, you have to come to Him in humble faith. The God of the Bible is not the God to whom the author of this manifesto is faithful. Far from it. But aside from that, the statement is correct.

Lost in all the rabble, the cacophonous cries of indignation, the Twitter grenades being lobbed to and fro to the Enemy’s diabolical delight, is this: God, the true God, knows exactly why this happened. He completely understands, for the heart of man is wretched. Every intention of his heart is only evil continually, even from his youth. God said this before there was such a thing as White, Black, Hispanic, or even Jew and Gentile.

Sin is the great equalizer in all of this, and the primary reason all ought to lament and grieve. It is also the reason most people need, in modern terms, to remember that in the multitude of tweets or Facebook posts sin is not lacking, but whoever restrains his thumbs is wise. (Prov 10:19).

This leads me to the other side of God’s “understanding” why this happened. God understands the true, grotesque nature of sin, and we know this because He sent His Son to the cross. There on the cross all can see a Savior who gave up his life, not to fight against a system of injustice, not to exalt one race over another, not to justify wickedness, but to justify the wicked. That death—and the soon-after resurrection—has resulted in the salvation of untold numbers of murderers, racists, white supremacists, liars, cowards, slanderers, pastors, kings, slaves, Jews, and Gentiles.

Disagree with this? Well, dress it up however you will, but if you disagree, you commit the very same folly as the Jews and Gentiles did in the days of Jesus. You are unwilling to submit to the scandal of the cross. You see, both Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and John T. Earnest have something in common. They both need Christ. And so do I. And so do you.

Some of you will find what I wrote insufficient, that I did not go far enough, or that my gospel is too small. I can say quite honestly that it is a small thing to be judged by you. Sin in all its forms, like murder (which includes racially motivated hatred), slander, gossip, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and especially blasphemy are first and foremost offenses against a holy, holy, holy God.

All of us need to humble ourselves before Him, plead with Him for His mercy, especially that He would never send our nation a famine—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11).

All of us should grieve the loss of life. All of us should also mourn over the spreading of division in the church and our nation. All ministers and elders need to be zealous and faithful in pursuing the peace, purity, and unity of the Church. May God grant all of us grace to seek true, everlasting peace through the once crucified Savior, now risen and reigning, Jesus Christ.

Mike Myers is a Minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Pastor of Heritage OPC in Royston, Ga.