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Sunday, September 17, 2006

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Maureen

To join the Roman Army meant doing sacrifices. Thus, not something a Christian could do.

However, along with all the Roman legionaries who became Christian and refused to fight for that reason, there were also soldiers who served the emperor loyally but refused to sacrifice. The Theban Legion and St. Maurice, for example. Also, note the Marcus Aurelius letter claiming that the prayers of Christian soldiers saved his army.

You have to give the full picture.

Joel Hoekstra

Dear Tim,

You ask if Christ would be opposed to warfare/violence on general principle. His summation of the Law is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. If you were living under the yoke of an oppressive regime which forbade various religious freedoms and a neighboring country which possessed the means to free you of that oppression stood idly by, would you think kindly of those neighbors? If your neighbors really loved you, wouldn’t they at least attempt to alleviate your oppression in some manner?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus teaches that even a despised stranger who helps his neighbor in a time of dire need can behave more righteously than a priest of God. But in Christ’s parable, the neighbor in need is already bruised and beaten, lying helpless by the side of the road. Imagine instead that the victim’s potential rescuers pass him by as he is in the process of being robbed and beaten, the perpetrators crowded around him and shouting at passersby not to interfere.

A Christian Pacifist wanders by and pleads with the perpetrators to stop beating their victim. The perpetrators just laugh and throw stones at the pacifist to scare him away. The pacifist decides to run back to the city from whence he came to call for help.

Hearing the victim’s cries for mercy, a Christian Martyr runs up and tires to bargain with the perpetrators, pleading that he be allowed to trade his life for the victim’s in a profound act of sacrificial love. Impatient with a second interruption, one of the perpetrators kills the martyr with at well-aimed slingshot, and now there is a corpse lying in the middle of the road.

Seeing this form afar, a Christian Soldier rushes to the scene of the crime, his armor deflecting the slings and arrows of the perpetrators. He skewers the first perpetrator he comes across with his sword, and manages to catch another perpetrator in the back with an well-aimed arrow as they flee into the hills. The solider then gently carries the battered victim back to his city to tend to the man’s wounds.

Which Christian most demonstrated love for his neighbor? The Pacifist, the Martyr, or the Soldier?

In a more modern context, when you see a fellow citizen being mugged, who shows more love: the bystander who calls the for the police, or the bystander to risks his own well-being to apprehend the mugger?

BenK

"Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses... For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses." (Joshua 11:12-15 + 20)

I don't know of any Christian or Jewish commentator who believes that the war commands of Exodus, Joshua, and Judges have any application beyond their immediate context; this passage is not a justification for war in general. The behavior of the Israelites is far from exemplary of God's character (the text itself make this clear).

Nevertheless it is clear that God (who, Christ tells us, loves his enemies, sending "sunshine on the good and the evil, and bringing rain to the righteous and the unrighteous") directly commanded his people to slaughter Cananite peoples along with their women and infant children.

Ostensibly, Christians who believe in the inspiration of the bible accept at least the possibility that you could love your enemy and yet kill them.

(As an aside, an in-depth look at the ethics of "God's Genocide" can be found at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/rbutcher1.html)

Daniel

Tim,
I agree and disagree. Yes Ideally if we were all like Christ we would wage no war Physically for we battle not with flesh and blood but with powers and principalities. But saying that we are far from Jesus Christ look a likes lets first look at Peter. Peter ( more a man of God than I) Blew it big time a lot of times. Lets look at when the Roman Soldiers came for Jesus what did he do , Chopped a guards ear off.( wrong but human) When Jesus Himself was mad in the temple Jesus overthrew the tables of the money changers. ( was that not an act of war?) And let us not delve in the Old Testament. ( I understand we are now covered by grace , but is God not the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.) Is not Jesus the Lamb and LION. We always paint this humble, weak form of Jesus and not the Supreme King coming to reign with FIRE in His eyes. We loose sight of kings bowing down and nations crumbling every tongue confessing before His throne. Don't you think casting something into a lake of fire is violent?
Again I agree with you and disagree with you.
Love thy neighbor, even die for him. But Jesus depicted the kingdom as suffering "violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12).

Tim

Many thanks to those who've commented so far. I'm not ignoring you! I'm a bit busy this week, and have decided to wait a day or two more to see if anyone else raises a different issue, and then post a 'Christian Pacifism Part 1b' post to answer the objections raised so far.

Again, thank you all for the thoughtful responses thus far.

Tim

Tim

A combination of circumstances have made it impossible for me to take the time to reply to the questions as I had hoped. In fact, I am going to be withdrawing from the blogosphere altogether in order to give attention to things I need to work on.

I would like to refer readers of BH to an article written almost 25 years ago by a Christian Reformed theologian. The Reformed tradition is not known for its sympathy to pacifism, but this author has some pertinent things to say which I think address some of the concerns readers have raised here.

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=115

Paul

Christians will fight - and kill in defense.

There is the crux of this entire argument is Iraq defense.
Desert Storm was a defensive war because of our defense treaty with Kuwait and the clear fact that soverign borders and rights had been violated.

Iraqi Freedom however is complete, has been complete for some time and now we find ourselves in another civil war that in many ways we are doomed to fail at, just as we were doomed when we interjected ourselves into the civil war in Vietnam.
In this case however, we open the door to this civil war and that will cost us far more (and not just in dollars or lives) than Vietnam did.

John Novak

We seem to want to find reasons to throw our
cross down and try to live again!! The way we are required to treat our enemies is very clear but in support of what you said, (and I do agree with you)
Jonathan Dymond wrote "Our lawgiver attaches guilt to some of the violent feelings, such as resentment, hatred, revenge; and by doing this, we contend that he attaches guilt to war. War cannot be carried on without these passions which he prohibits. Our argument, therefore, is syllogistical. War cannot be allowed, if that which is necessary to war is prohibited.

Guy

In response to Joel's Pascifist/Martyr/Soldier scenario:

This scenario only begs the question. 'Who is showing more love?' is just a different form of the very question under investigation. This scenario may be designed to evoke in us certain *intuitions* that the soldier who stepped in and waged a physical battle was the most loving of the three. But it may very well be the case that those intuitions are culturally produced in us--via movies with violent heroes, or our society's value and admiration for soldiers, or even just an attempt to paint at least some violence as okay. What this scenario can't tell us is that those intuitions are necessarily instilled in us from God's word.

There are plenty of other conceivable scenarios in which God's word runs counter to our intuitions. Some people feel strongly that there are occasions in which lying is best--to protect someone from harm. But that doesn't change that Christ taught absolute honesty. It's merely a case where our intuitions are mistaken. This also may be a case where our intuitions are mistaken, and the right answer is that both the Pascifist and the Martyr did, in fact, demonstrate love, while the soldier did not. [Which, by the way, i'm unclear as to why the "Martyr" wasn't also a Pascifist since he didn't engage in physical combat.]

Further, do we need a modified scenario? In the Samaritan parable, the Samaritan did not hunt down and kill or physically engage the robbers. He simply tended to one who had been physically hurt by them. The parable doesn't give us any information about how a 'good Samaritan' interacts with attackers, but only how he interacts with the wounded.

Sarah Parsons

I randomly came across this website while looking for some good articles to read about Christian Pacifism.

I am a Christian Pacifist - or Christian Creative Non-violence Agent.

In response to Joel's argument, I have a question: who is the neighbor whom we are suppose to love? If it is the wounded man, then yes, certainly saving his life would be loving. However, I would argue that not just the wounded man is our neighbor, but the perpetrator, too. So often we have this "us and them" mentality. We are called to love our neighbor (and our enemies in Matt 5). So, killing the perpetrator - even to save a life - would not seem very loving. When Jesus said love your enemies, I don't think he meant kill them.

And another thought - our intuitions may say the Christian Soldier is the most loving - but doesn't Jesus say no greater love than this - a man who lays down his life for a friend? That seems to point to the Christian martyr, does it not?

Just some thoughts. Keep thinking and praying. It's a difficult subject to reconcile with what we have been taught throughout our lives by society, church, and family.

Caleb

I have a question. I am a pacifist. I try to engage Christians, but find a lot of hostility. I feel that this is a very important issue, the most important issue, really, because it gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who practices Jesus' law of love, as opposed to the world's law of violence, extending this love even to his enemies.

My question is, how can a Christian engage the Church on this issue? I have not found any productive means of engaging people, because it seems that here in the US the idolatry of nationalism blinds their eyes.

Micael

I'm a servant of Christ, a pacifist.

You can only love your enemies when the Holy Spirit is in you. The martyrs of the early Church was indeed filled with Holy Spirit, otherwise they would think like this lost sheep Joel, that violence is necisseary when you walk with God. How then could they have become martyrs. Joel's parable is terrible, the most awful I've ever read. It looks like it has been written of an atheist.

Where is God in that parable? Do you think that God not has the power to stop the robbers without killing them? Don't you believe Jesus' words "Pray and it will be given to you"? This is not a hard subject at all, when we are filled with Holy Spirit, everything is possible. The Christian pacifist wouldn't run away to the nearest city to get help from men; he would stay where he was and pray to God! That is an obvious answer! But you, you fallen man, you think that the sword has more power than God! Jesus said that we shall be pacifists (Love your enemies), He told us to be martyrs (take your cross) but He NEVER told us to kill, even in self defence. To kill in self defence is to opposite of being a martyr! You don't want to be a pacifist, neither a martyr, but a human soldier, although Paul wrote "We don't wage war as the world does" (2 Cor 10:3). So you bring judgement on yourself, you don't listen to the Word of the Lord but on the words you like to hear. Don't you realize that the perpetrators also are humans that Jesus died for, and that He loves them as much as the samaritan? You judge people because of their actions, but the Gospel's message is that Jesus loves us whatever actions we do. Nothing is impossible for God! But you change His divine parable to your own, where killing is doing something good, which is totally wrong! What if there wasn't a samaritan lying there, but Hitler? You see not humans as the image of God but as sinners, but not everyone as sinners, on the contrary to the Bible's teaching: everyone are sinners. Don't you realize that you are as evil as Hitler? Repent and ask for God's glory, because you have turned to the evil of satan.

I will pray for you my brother. I bet that you watch TV, play games and do a lot of things that not honor God. The Holy Spirit has told me not only to refuse violence but to sell everything I have and live a life preaching the Gospel. I think He will send me to the middle east, preaching the Word to the lost children of Ismael. What if I meet american soldiers there, and you are one of them? I bring life to the iraqies, but it is not I but God who works in me, you kill them. I defeat evil with good (Rom 12:21), you fight evil with evil. I die as a martyr, beaten and plauged for Christ's sake, you die rich, fat with a healthy life behind you, hoping that God will thank you because of your killing of men He has created.

Who then of us is most like Christ?

John

There are many things we were never told to do in the New Testament.

The jury is still out for me on this issue. However, do you find it odd that if all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching that the words of John the Baptist to the soldiers did not scorn their military careers. Did Jesus tell the Centurion that He would gladly heal the sick servant if the Centurion would give up his wicked profession? Perhaps the Centurion that Peter was sent to convert. Indeed his whole family was converted but never once was any remark made about their profession being evil. What about the jailer when the earth shook and Paul was freed from jail was the jailer not converted? Was he not shown to have continued in his profession as a jailer?

It seems to me that something needed saying that was never said if violent professions such as Law Enforcement and Military ones were evil. I certainly don't see how John could say "do not abuse your power" to the soldiers instead of "abandon your wicked profession" if indeed it were wrong for them.

Travis

We have lost our creative intuition when it comes to the issues of violence and war. We feel, as Americans, that a strong army some how makes us safe. Safe from what? We create a large barrier between ourselves and other nations (which creates little diplomacy). "Whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword" We are called to love our enemies and care for them. Just because someone can create a scenario in their minds that they feel disrupts the pacifist's model of life doesn't mean that it is a broken system of thought. If you feel that way you are missing the boat when it comes to understanding Jesus' teachings. He was creatively anti-violence. He says if someone strikes you turn your head and give them the other cheek. This is profound because it shows the other person that you (the person being struck) is a human being and made in the image of God. It shows worth and will show the error in the other persons actions. As a response to the Modern Good Samaritan story I would say that being creatively non-violent is key. Does the pacifist merely walk away and do nothing? No, the pacifist steps in and says hear take my money. Take anything you want its yours just leave this man/woman alone. The pacifist needs to be creative. We have lost our creativity and we believe that power and violence can be a cure to evil. Don't repay evil with evil. Martin Luther King Jr. said that you can put us in jail and we will still love you. You beat us and we will still love you. But we will wear you down with our love. That is the battle cry of the pacifist. Love

JN

Although your premise is valid and your argument is sound, citing Catholic sources weakens your argument. Catholics are not Christians, for various reasons including Salvation.

JN

Joel polluted the parable of the Good Samaritan, but nobody is fooled. His own wish to justify a "Christan soldier" being violent, outside of service in God's Army (Israel) has led him to lie, or exaggerate, which is the same thing. America is neither Israel nor God's country.

Matt

I think us Christian 'pacifists' should change the name used to Christian martyr's. People get confused with passive-ism and pacifism too easily.

I read Joel's parable, and instantly thought that the Martyr behaved like a Christian, so I am surprised that Joel actually meant for the soldier to be the more 'loving'. I thought it was a good point... Christian's have forgotten what the path of the martyr requires in terms of self-sacrifice/carrying our cross.

Re: Maureen. I don't think you are giving the whole picture there. Idolatry was only PART of the reason why they were forbidden to join the military/magistrates/rulers office. Check this out re the early Christians http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=648&layout=html#chapter_39897

RE: John. The Jailer, and Cornelius/Centurion for that matter, would have been told/hinted to leave their professions if it did involve bloodshed etc, in order to remain Christians, but it would have been merely an outcome of learning the teachings of our Messiah [we consider Jesus, not John the baptist, as the supreme interpreter and teacher of God's law]. Why did you assume that they continued? This is the argument of silence Tim mentioned above. We know that hatred, murder, idolatry are all sinful, according to the scriptures, and so this extends over to its full consequence (group violence/murder).

RE: Daniel. Are you taking the metaphor Jesus used literally there [Matt 11:12]? No commentator even remotely agrees with you on that exegesis. And in regards to Jesus cleansing the Temple, NOT ONCE did he use violence against another human (re-check it matey), He did that all by His charisma/presence & by shaming His opponents. Else, the Roman guards would easily have intervened, and the Jewish elite would have found their excuse to arrest Him. Daniel, what did Peter do after being filled with the Holy Spirit? Did he chop anyone else's ear off after? It is perfectly within our Lord's authority to strike His enemies (if He wishes)upon His second coming (though He is going to resurrect us all), BUT He has commanded Christians NOT to use violence (by His own living example), but to love one another in the meantime.

RE: JN - 2 points. Exaggerating (in hyperbole - figure of speech) is not lying, else you can accuse Jesus of lying, nor is being mistaken considered lying. 2nd, the Christians who attend the local Roman Catholic Churches I know of, are definitely Christians; believers in the Messiah, understand the Triune nature of God, as well as the hypostatic union, and rely on Jesus for their salvation. Your understanding of ALL the Christians attending RCC's is sadly ignorant. E.g. www.johndear.org is a minister of the RCC who is committed to non-violence.

RE: Caleb. I'm from Australia, and I find it abit difficult as well. I would say, approach our brethren on a personal level. That way, you can concentrate on convincing one person at a time, until you build up a group discussion. Try and find out why they think Jesus allowed for violence by Christians, and ask for examples of such.

Brian

I'm just curious what the pro-pacifist argument would do if they came home and caught their wife and daughter being raped and just about to be killed by home invasion assailants (which does happen). Would they stand their and plead with them not to rape them any more and please don't kill them or would they decide to react and stop that innocent child of theirs from such gruesome violence and death?

See it's easy to pacify when you leave your own family out of the equation, but just as soon as you add in your own family then you tend to change your mind.

Are you gonna stand by and say please sir "Bless You" please don't rape and kill my 5 year old daughter, here take this money and please leave.

Second isn't it hypocritical to let the police defend you and let a police officer go to hell to save your butt. Oh I can't defend myself from this perpetrator, but thank you Mr. police officer for going to hell for me and my daughters life to be saved. Don't quote Romans 13 now then refer back to police can't defend themselves or others, you can't have it both ways.

It seems to me that we have a double standard here. Do we defend our families at whatever cost is necessary even if it causes the assailant to be slain or not.

If it was your family what would you do?

Emily

On this issue, I am a Buddhist.
In Buddhism, the taking of all life is wrong. So the moral thing to do, if you see someone attacking other humans wantonly is to kill the attacker.
Yes, you will have sinned in taking the life of someone committing a sin. But you will have saved that sinner from even more grievous woes; he will not have to pay as dearly with his own soul for having destroyed human life.
And you have saved innocent human life. If you're a good Buddhist, then your goal is to save all sentient beings, and having saved some lives, and some souls from worse harm, you have done the world good.

CISCO

FRANCISCO

WHEN DID JESUS OR HIS APOSTLES EVER MOUNTED A REBELLION AGAINST ROME FOR HER INJUSTICES UPON THE JEWISH PEOPLE? WHERE IS THERE PROOF OF THIS? CERTAINLY NOT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. CHRIST CAME TO BRINGS US " THE KINGDOM OF GOD" A DIFFERENT PATH THAN THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD. A DIFFERENT SYSTEM OF LIVING FOR MEN EVERYWHERE. ALTHOUGH THE JEWISH PEOPLE HAD THE WORD OF GOD WITH THEM YET CHRIST HIMSELF SHOWED THAT HIS KINGDOM WAS UNLIKE THEIR "THEOCRACY" FOR HE TAUGHT US TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES, TO DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE US ETC ETC. ALL OF THIS LEAVES OUT ROOM FOR VENGENCE, ESPECIALLY IN A THEOCRACY. THAT IS A GOVERMENT RUN WITH A DIVINE LAW. IN THE CASE OF ISRAEL A BLASPHEMER WAS STONE, US THE CHURCH MUST BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE US. YOU SEE HOW THE CHURCH AND THE STATE MUST NOT " NEVER " MARRIED, THAT IS WORK TOGETHER TO BRING DOWN JUSTICE BECAUSE THAT WOULD LEAVE OUT GRACE FOR THE SINNER AND THE GOSPEL WOULD BE COMPROMISE. AND FOR WHAT? TO LIVE AT PEACE IN THIS WORLD AND RETAIN OUR RICHES? TO DEFEND A PEICE OF LAND THAT IN THIS AGE DOES NOT BELONG TO US? TO RESCUE OUR BRETHEREN WHO ARE MISTREAD ABROAD WHEN OUR LORD AND HIS APOSTLES GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR TESTEMONY. DO NOT BE DECEIVE BRETHEREN,NEVER IS A TRUE CHRISTIAN TO WAGE WAR ON ANYONE REGARLESS OF THE CIRCUMTANCES. TO DO SO WOULD MEAN DENIAL OF CHRIST, BETRAYAL OF HIM OF BOUGHT YOU WITH HIS OWN BLOOD FOR HIS KINGDOM. WE ARE NOT TO INVOLVE OURSELVES WITH THE POLITICS AND AFFAIRS OF THIS WOLRD BECAUSE WE DO GOOD REMEMBER THAT SATAN LEADS THE WORLD ASTRAY, INDEED SATAN CAUSE THE WARS AMONG MEN. CAN'T YOU SEE THIS CLEARLY. THE CHURCH IS COMMISIONED BY CHRIST TO SAVE LIVES NOT TO DESTROY, SO ANYONE TELLING YOU TO FIGHT FOR WHATEVER REASON IS NOT SPEAKING TO YOU BY HOLY SPIRIT BUT IS TRYING TO LEAD YOU STRAY ALONE WITH THE WHOLE WORLD AND WHO MAY THIS BE BUT SATAN HIMSELF. THEREFOR BE WISE MY BROTHER AND DO NOT GIVE IN TO TEMPTATION FOR A LITTLE WHILE WILL CHRIST COME AND THE HEARTS OF MANY WILL BE REVEAL.

Reg Sutherland

The teachings of Jesus are only for His disciples. Only a Christian filled with the Spirit of God and living by faith can truly love their enemies as commanded.

As for the thought that one can kill their enemy and yet love him, Jesus put it in another way; "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you sincerely believe that you would want someone to abuse you, rape you, rob you, maim you, kill you etc., then by all means feel free to do likewise.

God is not mocked, whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

Repent and believe the Good News that Christ died for your sins thjat you may receive His Holy Spirit and Eternal Life and then you can begin to be one of His disciples and obey His commands.

Peace and Grace to you

Reg

Michael Snow

Well, this is probably speaking only to the air as this thread is years old! But it came up as the second item on my google search.

My comment re:
"The question I want to address is ‘Should a Christian be involved in war?’ It is not ‘Should a secular state wage a war?’"

The first is the key question that almost always gets muddled together with the second by American Christians.

Congrats on an excellent article.

I was asked to write an article for Quaker Religious Thought on Christian Pacifism in relation to the 30th Anniversary edition of my book, Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way. [now an ebook http://tinyurl.com/3wnuzb2 on amazon and barnes and noble]

I cannot say it any better than this brother.

Michael K

Hey guys,

I was randomly searching for something about Christian pacifism and came across this page. I'm really encouraged to see there are others out there. I pray that God will show us how to lead others away from the use of violence and embrace the way of the Cross. It is hard, it is painful, but in the end it is worth it. God bless you Tim and others (lot of Michaels on here).

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