Book Review: Blood Guilt by Philip P. Kapusta

The issue of Christian involvement in war is a very complex discussion that needs to be considered from a very broad perspective. There are certain commands throughout Scripture that prohibit killing and others where God commands the taking of lives. In the Church age, it is important that Christians wrestle with this concept and attempt to understand this complexity. In my humble opinion, I consider the wars and aggression that have risen from the outcries of many fundamental Christians is a blemish on the character of a loving God which tarnishes the ultimate commission of the Church. However, this does not conclusively require Christians to abstain from politics.

Not the same as the novels by Kit O'Malley or Ben Cheetham by the same name.

Any argument that attempts to take a very complex issue and oversimplify it with only one logical outcome ought to be perceived with great scrutiny and caution. Blood Guilt by Philip P. Kapusta is a perfect example of such a poorly drawn conclusion. Just from an initial skimming of the text it is clearly apparent that Kapusta’s argument is predetermined and read back into the text of Scripture.

Hopefully this review will not only point out the abhorrent outcome of poor logic represented in oversimplifying an argument, but will also provide a more balanced perspective on this controversial issue.

While there are a multitude of horrendous errors made and a wealth of logical fallacies used, for the sake of this review I will only point out three, which should be enough to represent the whole book as a literary failure.

First of all, we must understand the weight of taking a life.  The name of the book comes from Psalm 51:14 which says, “Save me from the bloodguilt…” The premise is that any act of taking another persons life is evil and therefore deserving guilt. The ten commandments themselves say, “Thou shalt not kill.” If this is true, then there must be a clear distinction made in Scripture that the act of taking a life is always a sin. Yet, that is not the case. All throughout the Old Testament there are acts and commands of violence that are sanctioned by God Himself. Even to the degree of killing women and children. We ought to be thankful that we no longer live under OT law.

Being that we are in a new age, it is clear that the purpose of the Church is not to be a nation, but to be the Body of Christ. This provides a new objective. The Church has been commissioned to make disciples of all nations. The Christians have no claim on any land and therefore have no boarders to defend. There is a debate on whether Christians should defend the morality of a culture, but while I respect those who think that, I don’t see any definitive commission for that in the New Testament. But there certainly needs to be a balance to how Christians interact with the world and influence culture. But does this mean that Christians cannot participate in democracy, national defense, or appealing to their rights?

Kapusta’s argument is heavily dependent on the abstract notion of following Christ’s example. Understand that this same argument has been used to justify a whole spectrum of behaviors. Whenever someone uses this argument as a trump card, you need nothing more than a nose and two nostrils to smell the fishy odor. I have written before how much I disdain the WWJD phrase. This is the logical fallacy of building an argument on an abstract, and pulling definitive answers out of a vacuum. Yes, Jesus lived peaceably for a short period of 33 years on earth where He laid a foundation of how we ought to live, but the one who healed the sick also allowed the sickness and the one who brought the dead back to life is also responsible for destroying more lives than all the wars combined. We have to be careful that the abstract principle of following after Jesus does not re-write or dictate a solid theology.

Secondly, is it ever just to take another persons life? The question is poorly made in the book. It heavily leans on the previous argument only adding a few more, “Love your enemies,” “Bless those who curse you,” and “Turn the other cheek.” This seems to be a solid argument when you get real close, but after stepping back a few paces and looking at the Bible as a whole, you can see that God is not making a definitive command that it is inconclusively sinful for anyone to take another’s life. Having never heard of Philip P. Kapusta before and not finding anything documented on him, I’m going to assume that he’s not an accredited theologian, a conviction that is further reinforced by his poor exegesis. There are, however, several well know theologians who address this problem quite thoroughly.

The question ought to be raised, what makes a war wrong, not what makes a war just. If it is wrong to kill a person, then it is wrong to police a state and to defend one’s own family against an assailant. When you can only see, “Turn the other cheek,” in the Bible, then I can understand why you would give your wallet to a burglar when they put a gun in your face. But what about when that man is about to attack your daughter. All of a sudden, the verse doesn’t say, “Let the rapist have what he wants,” and “Turn the other cheek” doesn’t say “Turn a blind eye.” Taking this a bit further, a Christian girl who is raped shouldn’t testify against her assailant because that wouldn’t be loving. I hope you’re able to see how this tunnel vision theology is perilous to practical living and contrary to the character of God.

Thirdly, are Christians who participate in politics associating themselves with evil? The book presents the idea that since wars are evil, executed by the government, participating in politics holds Christians liable for the actions of elected officials. Now, with an argument as flawed as this one is, I don’t even know where to begin, but I don’t want to assume that you see the obvious. Are voters responsible for Bill Clinton’s affairs? No. Are voters responsible for the war in Iraq? No. Did voters support the war in Iraq? Yes, some did, but not everyone who voted for Bush. Does voting constitute agreement with every political platform. Not at all.

This notion suggest that there is no redemptive reasons for getting involved in politics, therefore Christians should not vote. Now I’ve also heard arguments on the other side that suggest that it is a Christians duty to vote. Here is the truth. There is no definitive command in Scripture that Christians must or must not vote. All of the arguments for and against voting are purely opinions. These opinions are covered under the Romans 14 clause which suggest that there will be differences in opinions and Christians need to be respectful of that. Anyone on either side of the issue who suggest otherwise is wrong.

Kapusta implies that ‘rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ suggests that Christians should avoid association with government where possible. But this is not what the passage is teaching. He further uses Matthew 5 and the abstract of being the salt of the world to suggest that Christians are not to preserve society. On the contrary, salt serves no purpose unless it is touching what it is supposed to preserve. Kapusta’s notion suggest that we pull the salt out of society.

Yes, politics are corrupt, and Christians would be wise to rethink how they vote, but there is no command that we should remove ourselves from the public system. Yes, we need to be separate and holy, but not to the extent of the Amish. We must find a way to remain balanced and involved without tolerating the corruption, promoting narrow agendas, or attacking opponents. This book fails to fully understand some of the most basic principles in Scripture, while using those very passages to promote a very narrow view.

In conclusion, Kapusta points out many of the same concerns that I have against Christians who allow their prejudice against Muslims to influence their foreign policy and Church leaders who use their spiritual platform to promote a more narrow political objective. I further believe that Churches should not promote national holidays, especially when they don’t celebrate Pentecost. As a Baptist, I don’t think their should be an American flag behind the pulpit and I despise patriotic hymns used for worship. But Kapusta’s conclusions go to far. Like a bad Michael Moore movie, he uses gross accounts of the opposite extreme to defend his position without regarding the full spectrum of ideas concerned. Certainly I am not depicted in his attacks on the religious right. I never voted for George W. Bush, nor do I condone or support the current foreign policy. Yet there is no room for my position to be heard in Kapusta’s over-swiping argument. I can only hope that the author of this book will see the error of his ways and recant his potentially hazardous views, that Christians will recognize the logical fallacies and learn how to distinguish truth from prejudice, and that this book would not find support among Americans who are already confused politically.

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9 Responses to Book Review: Blood Guilt by Philip P. Kapusta

  1. debhiller says:

    “Yes, Jesus lived peaceably for a short period of 33 years on earth where He laid a foundation of how we ought to live, but the one who healed the sick also gave them the sickness and the one who brought the dead back to life is also responsible for destroying more lives than all the wars combined.”

    My question with point #1 is about your implication the God gave them the sickness. I always looked at it as God Allowed it. He is perfect and cannot do evil.

    James 1:17 says, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from the Father, who Created all the lights in the Heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (NLT) Earlier in the same chapter 1:13 says “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.”(NLT)

    Also Job’s was not destroyed by God. God allowed it. Job 1:6-12 Clearly Satan was the destroyer in this case. Do you think God made the people sick or did he just allowed it?

    Just Wondering

    • Adam Miller says:

      Thanks for asking Deb,

      There is some nuance in that paragraph and I guess I wasn’t very subtle or sensitive to that when I wrote it. If you’re familiar with the blind man in John 9 the people asked why he was blind. It’s very likely that early Jewish leaders automatically implied that all sicknesses came from God, they had a high view of God’s sovereignty, but they tended to associate it with sin and judgement. Jesus answered that the person was born blind so that Jesus could heal him.

      Whether God ‘did it’ or He ‘allowed it’ is a rather subtle distinction in our logical frame of reference. In the perspective of God’s sovereignty, I don’t think there is a clear way to distinguish the two – basically I would mean the same thing with either phraseology. Really the only distinction between the two phrases is where the original thought originated from. In the instance of Job, was God giving Satan permission to kill Job’s children any different than God numbering their days? Is God not liable for actions because he gave permission and didn’t decree a thing to come to pass? Explain the differences between these four scenarios: 1-God allowed Satan to kill Job’s children 2-God killed all the first born of the Egyptians 3-God commanded that the Israelites kill all of the inhabitants of Canaan 4-Herod killed all the children under two years of age. Was God out of control in any of these scenarios? You can see, this is a rather complex paradox.

      We need to be careful that we don’t equate sickness or death with evil. God doesn’t give evil, He doesn’t do anything that is bad to His children. Still, He is the author of life and the One who numbers our days. These things are viewed as bad, or evil, because of our skewed perspective of ourselves and theology. My point in the paragraph is that we can’t allow incidences like Jesus healing the sick to be the sort of tunnel vision that dictates our theology. We have to look at all the scenarios side by side.

      Still, I could have worded it much differently. No one has ever told me I was remarkably tactful.

  2. Another opinion says:

    Adam, did you actually purchase and read the entire book, or was your book review based upon the free two chapter download found at the publisher’s web site?

    • Peter says:

      He didn’t read it. I am reading it to write a review, so I thought it might be good to research Kapusta a bit and maybe read what others say about the book. Adam has his own argument, which is well enough, but he completely misses the mark. He does exactly what he is accusing Kapusta of, which Kapustsa accuses his opponents of, which they would accuse him of and accuse each other and everyone else of: “You don’t really understand, let ME explain it to you.” It is the age old problem of individuals who think they alone know what the Bible says and means. But that’s another story; Adam did not read the book. A proper book review answers the questions “What did the book set out to accomplish? Did it accomplish it?” Then, it can make a critique of that. Adam avoids those questions, because he clearly can’t answer them, and occupies himself with promoting his own “humble opinion.” Nothing against Adam, I don’t know him, but it’s a shame that he slaps down a book he doesn’t know or understand. I don’t know Kapusta either, but when I contacted him to get a copy of the book, he cautioned me that the book has 530 pages and I should take the time to read the whole thing.

      • Peter says:

        …One more comment: Kapusta peppers the book throughout with generous amounts of source material and quotes from not only the Bible, though he clearly takes the Evangelical approach the the Bible is the final authority, but from scholars and theologians through two millennia of Church history. Adam could not say Kapusta “uses gross accounts of the opposite extreme to defend his position without regarding the full spectrum of ideas concerned” if he’d read the book. He uses gross accounts of the mainstream view, extreme but not “an extreme,” and positively defends his position with an impressive, if not full (who knows what that looks like?) spectrum of ideas. The funny thing about the “gross accounts” he uses in generous quantities: they don’t defend his position, they severely undermine his opponents position. Kapusta then seeks to correct their errors. Like him or not, he does an impressive job.

      • Another opinion says:

        Thanks Peter for your comments. Although Adam never replied to my original question, I did find an admission by him on another one of his blog pages where he states that he had not read the book (an admission which he gave only after being repeatedly questioned on this matter by another “Peter”). It was there that Adam wrote:

        “I understand that it’s not conventional to write a review without fully analyzing the text, but I did make it clear that this was a brief skimming…”

        Contrary to what he wrote above, it was not clear what exactly it was that Adam was “briefly skimming.” In his “book review,” Adam never mentioned that he was “skimming” a limited PDF sampler containing only two chapters from a 530 page book.

        Like you, I did some web searches on this book. In the process I discovered that Adam’s “book review” has also been posted at Amazon.com.

        Adam is free to post whatever he wishes, here at his own blog site, but when he posts a book review at Amazon.com, and fails to disclose the fact that he never possessed a copy of the book, let alone read the book, well, it reminds me of something that a wise man once wrote in Proverbs 18:13…

        He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame.

        In this case, however, the proverb should be changed to read:

        He who reviews before reading — that is his folly and his shame.

  3. Carl says:

    Miller is obviously hung up on his position that Biblical truth is ‘complex’ and shows a resentment for those like Kapusta, who see the truth as simple, but made complex by theologians. Miller refers to following Jesus’ example as an ‘abstract notion’, whereas author Kapusta understands following Jesus’ example as a mandate, and clearly explains it in the book. One wonders if reviewer Miller did much more than his “initial skimming” of the book, because all the issues he brings up are clearly answered in detail throughout the book, including the three points he discusses. Miller seems to be using his review as an opportunity to grandstand his own views, while at the same time discouraging others from reading the views set forth in Blood Guilt.

    In Blood Guilt, Kapusta addresses the problems of added on traditions to the basic teachings of Christ. What would be obvious to a first time reader of God’s Word, it is necessary for author Kapusta to spend 528 pages to explain why tradition has biased our thought, and give excellent examples and answers we can share with those teachers of the traditions of men. The years of research into current events and quotes is a research masterpiece which greatly adds to the discussion. To me, Blood Guilt will be a reference book which I can go back to again and again for encouragement and assistance in combating man’s traditions which have dominated for so long. Although the subtitle seems to restrict the content to the war on terror, this book is a classic for all time to the discussion of a Christian’s response to politics vs. obedience to Christ’s teachings.

    Miller makes a point that in his opinion Kapusta is not “an accredited theological”, but I would contend that this was the charge of the Pharisees about Jesus and the apostles. Even so, there were the Nicodemus types who broke from tradition to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “If you love Me, you will obey my commands”. This was the teaching of Jesus, the apostles, and their disciples for the first three hundred years of the church. A remnant has proclaimed this truth throughout the history of the church, and Blood Guilt is the latest installment.
    It is not because of content, “poor logic”, poor writing, or “oversimplifying” that Blood Guilt will not be on a best seller list, but because those like reviewer Miller will do everything in their power to stamp out anything that challenges their traditions and complications of the simple truth of scripture.

  4. Cal says:

    This book review is so woefully inadequate it shouldn’t have been written at all. I’m not even 2/3 of the way through the book and every point made has been more than reasonably addressed. Mr. Kapusta is not advocating extremes or making blanket statements. Every point he makes he argues quite thoroughly. That is why it is a 530 page book and deserves more than this blog gives.

    Considering that the reviewer did not read the book is either dishonest or an ignorant understanding of what a “book review” is. With so little reviews written about “Blood Guilt”, why put out such a poor effort? And even if one had read only a skim, why not give actual quotes from the author so the reader of the review can see the reviewers thought process in analysis?

    Though I agree with Kapusta in most of his arguments and assessments, even if I didn’t, Kingdom people shouldn’t hack up the Truth because they need something to write about.

  5. chidi says:

    To appreciate this book, you need to read it at least twice! It is awesome, well researched and very pertinent for our human blood drenched world. The teaching of Jesus is very clear and it is not complicated. The texts of the Gospels are aimed at 12 year old literacy.

    People that attack the book are usually pro-war. Anyone who is objective will feel really sorry for we Christians. As Gandhi said: “Only Christians do not see Jesus as nonviolent”. That is utterly strong.

    This book reminds me a bit about Leo Tolstoy’s book, The Kingdom of God is within you. This is the book that partly led to Gandhi’s conversion.

    Read the book and don’t allow the pro-war candidates (unfortunately about 99% of the population) dissuade you.

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