Do you think pacifism a biblical position? Why or why not?
I’ll probably hate myself for getting involved in this:
When Jesus chased money changers out of the temple, he used a whip and drove hem out (the Greek uses the same word used to drive cattle). Maybe he was just threatening and would not have actually hit them – I don’t know. Or maybe he DID strike them with that whip, like one does cattle.
But, despite what many want to believe, the Word simply doesn’t include a verse that says that violence is always wrong. I’ve yet to be convinced that self-defense and fighting for the helpless victims of the world is wrong.
I’m told that violence is a bad choice, because bullies and crooks can be dealt with through non-violent means. But I disagree. There are evil people who cannot be talked down or bribed away from their dangerous positions, and no amount of non-violent action will stop their ways. This is because they have learned that they can use violence to get what they want, and only violence will stop them. It happens, and diplomacy and bribery will always fail before such evil monsters.
But, let the idealist call me a boorish war-monger who is not creative. They always do. And when someone comes to their home with violent intent, they’ll be praying for a police squad to rescue them.
Thanks, Adam, for getting involved despite your better judgment. 🙂
I generally agree with your position here. I think what you’re saying is that some bullies and crooks can be dealt with through non-violent means but others cannot be. And I would add that we can afford to be neither hardened nor naive.
I’m pretty sure cattle is driven by cracking the whip near them (they’re pretty skittish, as I imagine those in the temple were), but there is lots of biblical evidence to support the notion that we force God’s hand to deal with us violently with our evil violence. It also seems, however, that a shift occurred when God sent his Son to a violent death instead of dealing violently with us.
I’m not a pacifist, but I have friends who scoff at those who are and call them unbiblical, and that rubs me the wrong way. That’s where this question comes from.
It seems as though violence is always wrong (though not morally, as you point out) in that it isn’t the way it was supposed to be and isn’t the way it will be when everything is made right; the day in which there will be no more tears is certainly a day in which there will be no more violence.
Thanks again for your comments, you uncreative, boorish war-monger. PS. For those who don’t know Adam, no description could be further from true.
Is it horrible if I deflect to Lewis? Still figuring out my own thoughts on this topic and doing plenty of reading.
“Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not meant that I ought not to subject myself to punishment–even death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy…All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St John the baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman centurion…We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one’s own back, must be simply killed…Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves–to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not…Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves.” – C.S. Lewis
Is it horrible to deflect to Lewis? Not on this blog it isn’t. 🙂
Of course, it’s that last bit from Lewis that is most important and most difficult.
“Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves–to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not… Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves.”
Thanks for bringing Lewis to the table; he is always welcome. (I’m guessing this is an excerpt from Mere Christianity?)
I think its a complicated issue, but ultimately pacifism is unBiblical. If that rubs you the wrong way, most of the pacifist I know would suggest that even participation in government is unBiblical. On the other hand, I don’t scoff at them and take their arguments very seriously. At its strongest form, I think it holds that the ethics of war are irreconcilable with our commitment to a Christian ethics. And this is different from strict pacifism which sees war as wrong, and is firmly rooted I think in passages like Matthew 5-7. And this sees the Christian ethics correctly I might add, or Biblically as self-sacrificing. Without getting too much into it though, ultimately, violence and self-sacrificing love are reconcilable; and suggesting otherwise requires fudging the texts. I don’t have a problem with them fudging the Bible, which is something anyone who takes the texts seriously has to do, my problem is with their hermeneutics.
While they might be reconcilable however, most of the time I feel its merely an excuse for not following commandments for peace-making and love. Maybe not always as the pacifist might assert, but generally yes. And while I’d suggest Christian pacifism has a more Biblical frame of mind than is typical especially of our civil religion but most Constantinism, from a Biblical perspective its still false. Yes, our commitments to the KoG does exclude certain civil participation, including warfare; in fact our mission calls us into conflict with government ways of doing things. However, maintaining a strict sectarianism flies in the face of that mission.
Thanks, Josh. I appreciate your nuanced response. It echoes most closely my own thoughts.
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