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An Open Letter to Mr. Falwell: Princeton Theological Seminary Responds

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December 8, 2015

Dear Mr. Falwell,

At Liberty University's Convocation on Friday, December 4, you recommended arming Christian students with the object of killing Muslims. Many of us at Princeton Theological Seminary were alarmed and deeply troubled by these comments and those that followed in the media. We feel compelled as Christian scholars to testify to the love of Jesus Christ and to address your statements.

We understand that there are significant problems to which you are responding. We see heartbreaking violence here and abroad, and real challenges face our nation. It is easy in such circumstances to let our fear guide and control our actions.

And yet, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ testifies to the possibility of a life lived in love, not fear. According to scripture, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Often we are tempted to respond out of fear, but Jesus calls us to a higher way.

In the resurrection, Jesus conquered the grave. In the Gospel of Matthew the first instruction his followers heard upon encountering the empty tomb was, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said" (Matthew 28:5-6). Even in a culture that enjoins us to fear, those who hear the call not to “be afraid” must point to the empty tomb in response. Therefore, arming Christians against a stereotyped enemy is not virtuous, but faithless. The vast majority of Muslims around the world, and next door, desire peace, as do the vast majority of Christians.

Death and danger confront us in this world. But Christians must stand against hate, against violence, and against fear. We must stand in friendship and solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Christ’s empty tomb compels us.

Sincerely,

Margaret E. Elwell, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Emily P. Wilton, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Adam D. Wert, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Lawrence A. Anglin, History, Ph.D. student

Stephanie Mota Thurston, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Thomas W. Seat II, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Isaac Y. Kim, Theology (Christian Ethics), Ph.D. student

See Yin C. Yeung, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. Francisco J. Pelaez-Diaz, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Justin Michael Reed, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Ph.D. student

Marcus A. Hong, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student

Chelsea S. Williams, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Melanie Webb, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Philip M. Forness, History, Ph.D. student

Ransom W. Portis, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student

Miles S. Hopgood, History, Ph.D. student

George F. Rambow, History, Ph.D. student

Daniel J. Pedersen, Theology, Ph.D.

Rory H. Misiewicz, Philosophy & Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. Justin Nickel, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Nathan C. Johnson, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student

Rev. Kermit Moss, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. Kristin J. Wendland, Old Testament, Ph.D. student

Jolyon G. R. Pruszinski, New Testament, Ph.D. student

Briana L. Wong, History, Ph.D. student

Andrew J. Peterson, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. David Bruner, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Cambria Janae Kaltwasser, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

James E. Walters, History, Ph.D. student

Rev. Andrew Thompson Scales, Homiletics, Ph.D. student

Sunder John Boopalan, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Joel D. Estes, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. Student

M. John-Patrick O’Connor, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student

Alyssa Lehr Evans, History, Ph.D. student

Jeffrey Skaff, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student

Christy Lang Hearlson, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student

Vinod I. Gnanaraj, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student

Candice Benbow, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student

Lindsey Hankins, Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. Ruben Arjona, Pastoral Theology, Ph.D. student

Craig Rubano, Pastoral Theology, Ph.D. student

Sarah Chae, Pastoral Theology, Ph.D. student

Rev. Joy Arroyo, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student

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