Reads a USMC bumper sticker.
The following is a dialogue I had with an absolute pacifist in response to his article that was published in a church newsletter. The first section was published in the same newsletter...
_____, I have a few comments on your article, The Pacifism of Jesus. I too have an appreciation for latitude where non-essentials are concerned, and respect your personal convictions on matters such as pacifism. But, when we make a charge like "Christian discipleship and military violence are incompatible" we need to support the claim with clear and objective teaching from Scripture.
The teaching of Scripture consistently permits the military duty of Christians and nowhere discourages military violence. The two, "Christian discipleship and military violence," are not incompatible. The passage in Ro. 13 provides more on this subject than you seem to allow. It clearly states that governing authorities, which may very well be Christians, are "God's minister to you for good" and that "he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." (Ro. 13:4) Attempting to impose absolute pacifism on Christians in the military may very well amount to encouraging them to disobey God. God rejected Saul as king for disobeying Him in a very similar way. (1 Samuel 15)
Pacifism incorrectly views individual exhortations to be slow to wrath and justified defense as mutually exclusive. There is a time for each. There is a time for peace and a time for war. (Eccl. 3:1&8) Pacifism also confuses the individual Christian's command with the purpose of the state – e.g. confusing `political and spiritual' crosses.
You wrote, "One of his [Christ's] main temptations was to use the sword to bring about God's justice – i.e. God's kingdom" to support your conclusion that "Jesus embraced pacifism." The phrase "main temptations" makes it sound like you had in view one of the three temptations in the wilderness. Yet, Matt. 4:8-10 and Lk. 4:5&6 bear no resemblance to the article's characterization. Perhaps this is not what you had in mind, though. The reader can only speculate about this, since a Scriptural reference was not supplied.
Another difficulty I had with that statement was defining the kingdom of God as God's justice. This appears to be done in an attempt to show that it was Christ's function on earth to bring about civil justice. Yet Christ specifically denied that He was given the role of a civil magistrate. (cf Lk.12:13&14) Bringing about civil justice is a duty given by God to local governing authorities as stated in Ro. 13. Christ subjected Himself to the local authorities, even to His death on the cross. He made no attempt to overthrow or usurp their authority – either by the sword or otherwise. This is why Christ told Peter to sheath his sword. (Jn. 18:11) That Christ subjected Himself, and His apostles, to the authority of local magistrates, and had no intention of usurping their authority, should not be confused with embracing national pacifism. (cf. Acts 25:11)
Christ's 3-fold office is recognized by most, if not all, Christians to be Prophet, Priest, and King. Pacifists are not the only ones to champion His role as King. You also wrote, "My thesis is that Jesus was a political prophet who challenged the powers that be…" and to prove this, the question to be answered is "does scripture teach or portray Jesus as a `political prophet'?" It seems to me that the question to be answered is not: was Jesus a `political prophet'? Instead, the question that you should have addressed in your article, to make your case, is this: did Christ challenge Christians or Christian soldiers to abandon their swords and embrace absolute pacifism, or not?
Scripture clearly indicates that He did not. In Matt. 8:5-13 we find an interaction between Christ and a believing centurion. The centurion was not challenged to give up his sword by Christ. This is an argument from silence, but this silence contradicts absolute pacifism. The statements by Christ recorded in Luke 22:36-38 more positively address this issue. Christ told His apostles that if they did not have a sword that they were to sell their garments in order to buy one. The apostles told Christ that they had a couple of swords already. He replied, "It is enough." Such an interaction shows that Christ did not embrace pacifism, nor did He teach others to be absolute pacifists.
In Jn. 18:36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not ~of~ this world." He did not say it is not ~like~ this world. We need to treat the Word of God carefully. Since it was not of this world, that meant that no civil authority, including Pilate, had any reason to fear that Christ's inauguration as King would threaten their local jurisdiction of worldly kingdoms – by violence or otherwise.
It was not the fact that folks incorrectly thought the kingdom of God should be brought in by violence that was at the heart of their error, either. As seen in Jn. 18:36, if the kingdom of God had been of this world then violence would have been justified. What led to their confusion was that they were expecting Christ to occupy David's physical throne in downtown, geographic, Jerusalem. They misunderstood the promises of the coming Messiah and assumed that these promises would have an earthly, physical, and temporal fulfillment. They did not understand that the kingdom of God was to be spiritual, heavenly, and eternal. This was at the heart of their error. And, I think many Christians today are making similar errors.
Your brother in Christ,
Let me say first that I know you are passionate about your beliefs. If we are convinced of something we should be passionate about it I think.
Also, I try to distinguish attacking the argument from attacking the person. I know that sometimes it feels the same. So, I may find fault with your argument but that does not mean I find fault with you.
That being said...
--- _____ _____ <email@example.com> wrote:
> The purpose of the articles in the poster (did you
> read all three?) was to cause people to rethink
> their view of Christians and war.
I did not read all three. I did read your second and third article. I do not remember the second one very well. The third article is the one that gave me difficulty the more I thought about it. By the way, who reviewed the articles before publication?
My main concerns with the third article were:
1) The charge that "Christian discipleship and military violence are incompatible." My concern here is for those Christians attending PCC who are currently enlisted, or in the future, and may be called into combat. Particularly when there is no clear and objective teaching from Scripture to support the charge.
2) Christ's 3-fold office is recognized by most, if not all, Christians to be Prophet, Priest, and King. Pacifists are not the only ones to champion His role as King as the article indicated. I know from our discussion that this could have been explained better. I fear this could have lead babes into falsely thinking that only pacifists see Christ as King.
3) In Jn. 18:36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not ~of~ this world." He did not say it is not ~like~ this world in John's Gospel. This is consistent with the context - "My kingdom is not from here" Jn. 18:36b NKJV. (cf. Lk. 17:20-21) The Word of God must be treated carefully - especially something communicated to the Christian community.
As you can see, my main concerns were not restricted to pacifism. I know that you wanted more substantive discussion on the issue of pacifism. I think your intent would have been better served if these other things, which I consider to be more serious, were not present.
> I am concerned that the just-war approach is guided
> more by tradition and less by scripture. The only
> passage just-war Christians rely on is Romans
> 13:1-7 and it is not addressing the issue at all.
> There is a big difference between submitting to the
> leaders of a city and joining the air force to kill
> the enemy.
Ro. 13 is not the only passage Just-War advocates rely on. On the face of it this appears to be a hasty generalization and a weak argument. They do use other passages for support. Old Testament Scripture is used to argue their case. They also argue from other passages in Scripture that neither Christ, nor His apostles, challenged Christians or Christian soldiers to abandon their swords and embrace absolute pacifism. They also rely heavily on the statement by Christ recorded in Luke 22:36-38 where Christ told His apostles that if they did not have a sword that they were to sell their garments in order to buy one. The apostles told Christ that they had a couple of swords already. He replied, "It is enough."
I would agree that there is a difference between submitting and signing up just so you can kill. But, these are not the only options, are they? You have framed the motive for joining negatively when there are positive motives that exist. If our options are limited to these two, a straw-man may be created. The straw-man argument may become: Christians who join the military during wartime are joining so they can kill. This would be an unfair argument.
> So, what do you think? Did Jesus teach us
> (CHRISTIANS) to love our enemies? And if so, where
> in God's word are we told to do otherwise?
I would answer, "Yes, He taught us to love our enemies" to the first question. I would answer, "He did not tell us to do otherwise" to the second question. I have quoted the material below.
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," Matt. 5:44.
"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," Lk. 6:27.
"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil." Lk. 6:35.
I think a False Dilemma is presented in the argument. The argument appears to be:
1)Christ said to love our enemies
2)Christians serving in the military at wartime kill our enemies
3)Therefore, the two are incompatible
First, I think this form of argument changes the meaning of the term 'our enemies' in the argument, which is a logical fallacy - the fallacy of equivocation. This then is used to produce a False Dilemma. The term 'our enemies' in the context Christ taught this has to do with our personal enemies that hate us individually, curse us personally, and the like. This has a different meaning from our country's enemies.
Second, an unspoken assumption appears to be that the love Christ commands here excludes killing. Yet, the parallelisms do not contain this same force. The good and love that is to be returned is in response to non-life-threatening actions directed to us individually - i.e. cursing, hitting on the cheek, taking our coats, etc. What is absent is Christ commanding us not to kill anybody - period. Then your argument would be strong. It would be:
1)Christ said don't kill anybody
2)Christians serving in the military at wartime kill people
3)Therefore, the two are incompatible