Christianity and pacifism


#1

I recently wrote a paper wherein I argued that it was incompatible to be both a pacifist and a Christian – citing numerous Biblical references to this fact… However, one thing I have been wondering… if this is true – that Christianity is indeed incompatible with pacifism – how would i explain the actions of the Early Christians – allowing themselves to be eaten by the lions. It was admittedly, a very pacifist community… any ideas?


#2

[quote=frdave20]I recently wrote a paper wherein I argued that it was incompatible to be both a pacifist and a Christian – citing numerous Biblical references to this fact… However, one thing I have been wondering… if this is true – that Christianity is indeed incompatible with pacifism – how would i explain the actions of the Early Christians – allowing themselves to be eaten by the lions. It was admittedly, a very pacifist community… any ideas?
[/quote]

Oh, that’s easy. Pacifism is not fighting back even if it’s justified or necessary, and you have the ability to do so. However, the early Christians were being asked to renounce their faith and worship pagan gods. Fighting back would have been an excercise in futility considering the Empire had the Roman Army on their side. They would therefore rather die than do what the pagans wanted.

Besides, the early Christians had no death wish. They were on the run, and met in hiding. They clearly loved their lives, but willingly gave them up when it ultimately boiled down to only two choices: death or apostasy.

For me, it’s the finest form of warfare.


#3

I’m not sure the term “pacifist” applies when you have no real option to fight. The early Martyrs really had no ability to fight the Roman soldiers who arrested them, or the govenor who sentenced them, or the lions who killed them.

In many cases they could have avoided their fate by renouncing Christ - but that would not have been “fighting back.”


#4

I think it just proves that Christ was really ressurected…who would really go to their death for a fable?

DU


#5

[quote=snowman10]I think it just proves that Christ was really ressurected…who would really go to their death for a fable?

DU
[/quote]

You have just demonstrated what Martyrdom is – a “martyr” is Greek for “witness.” The martyrs (most of them, anyway) never saw Christ, and never personally knew any of the Apostles. They were “witnesses” in the sense that by their willingness to suffer and even die for Christ they gave evidence of the reality of His resurrection.

Similarly, people to this day who by their willingness to sacrifice their own interests for Christ are bearing witness to His resurrection.


#6

[quote=frdave20]I recently wrote a paper wherein I argued that it was incompatible to be both a pacifist and a Christian – citing numerous Biblical references to this fact… However, one thing I have been wondering… if this is true – that Christianity is indeed incompatible with pacifism – how would i explain the actions of the Early Christians – allowing themselves to be eaten by the lions. It was admittedly, a very pacifist community… any ideas?
[/quote]

Turning the other cheek as believers is one thing, as individuals. This is the source of martyrs. Turning the cheek in regards to an attack on a nation is something completely different. I suggest you read C.S. Lewis essay on pacifism in *Weight of Glory. *My letter below was published in Christianity Today a few years ago–all except the last paragraph. It may also help…

Regarding your article *Rethinking Pacifism, *it seems that the inherent dilemma with pacifism becomes clear when the Christian widens the intended scope and meaning of “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) to refer even to nations attempting to defend themselves against hideous aggression. The verse appears to be focused primarily on our personal endeavors, our daily life. When the verse is erroneously used to support pacifism at all costs by a country and an entire society, it ignores the context and spirit of the passage. It also pushes aside any recognition of verses urging us to support our leaders and reminding us that they are placed there by God, and they are there for our protection from a depraved world (Proverbs 20:26, Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25, Romans 13:1). While peace is certainly our prayer and hope, we cannot ignore the reality of evil in the world.

It must be pointed out that pacifism has a history of failure, and it is dangerous ground for the Christian to be standing upon. For those who point to Gandhi as an instance of successful pacifism, for example, it should be noted that Gandhi’s techniques only could work with a country such as England, a country that respected the value of human life. Based on the attacks we have suffered thus far, it is clear that the followers of Osama Bin Laden value only death. To those that demand peace at all costs, didn’t you learn anything from pre-World War II appeasement? These pacifists should study the writings of historians such as Paul Johnson and theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In fact, the article ends with a statement that is reminiscent of Bonhoeffer. Ron Mock, of George Fox, notes that he also would probably have joined with the brave passengers of Flight 93 over Pennsylvania in attempting to wrest the jet from the hijackers. This honest admission is key to why diplomacy and pacifism alone are regrettably not always the best choices for the Christian when it comes to the protection of a nation and its people. It is my hope and prayer that the US can face this enemy with courage and resourcefulness and remember that we do not seek revenge, but we seek justice for the fallen and the death terrorism. (copyrighted by Christianity Today)

War has been a hideous element of human existence since the Fall of Man and reaching forward through the centuries until the return of Christ, if we accept a literal interpretation of what the Bible states concerning the endtimes. The Bible clearly gives us no reason to hope that wars will end before the Second Coming. That, of course, does not equate to a belief that we should identify ourselves as warmongers, but “peace at all costs” for entire nations is likewise not supported by the Bible or early Christian saints–such as Saint Thomas Aquinas (see writings on warfare and self-defense). It is of particular interest that we refer to the Fall of Man in this context, since our coalition forces now tread through deserts, where some believe, the sand storms blow close to the ancient location of the Garden of Eden. We return, then, to our birthplace with weapons drawn and the lines of soldiers–and our machines-- marching always forward for a cause greater then themselves, a cause made necessary because of what happened in this region’s ancient past.

**


#7

[quote=Writer]Turning the other cheek as believers is one thing, as individuals. This is the source of martyrs. Turning the cheek in regards to an attack on a nation is something completely different. I suggest you read C.S. Lewis essay on pacifism in *Weight of Glory. *My letter below was published in Christianity Today a few years ago–all except the last paragraph. It may also help…

Regarding your article *Rethinking Pacifism, *it seems that the inherent dilemma with pacifism becomes clear when the Christian widens the intended scope and meaning of “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) to refer even to nations attempting to defend themselves against hideous aggression. The verse appears to be focused primarily on our personal endeavors, our daily life. When the verse is erroneously used to support pacifism at all costs by a country and an entire society, it ignores the context and spirit of the passage. It also pushes aside any recognition of verses urging us to support our leaders and reminding us that they are placed there by God, and they are there for our protection from a depraved world (Proverbs 20:26, Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25, Romans 13:1). While peace is certainly our prayer and hope, we cannot ignore the reality of evil in the world.

It must be pointed out that pacifism has a history of failure, and it is dangerous ground for the Christian to be standing upon. For those who point to Gandhi as an instance of successful pacifism, for example, it should be noted that Gandhi’s techniques only could work with a country such as England, a country that respected the value of human life. Based on the attacks we have suffered thus far, it is clear that the followers of Osama Bin Laden value only death. To those that demand peace at all costs, didn’t you learn anything from pre-World War II appeasement? These pacifists should study the writings of historians such as Paul Johnson and theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In fact, the article ends with a statement that is reminiscent of Bonhoeffer. Ron Mock, of George Fox, notes that he also would probably have joined with the brave passengers of Flight 93 over Pennsylvania in attempting to wrest the jet from the hijackers. This honest admission is key to why diplomacy and pacifism alone are regrettably not always the best choices for the Christian when it comes to the protection of a nation and its people. It is my hope and prayer that the US can face this enemy with courage and resourcefulness and remember that we do not seek revenge, but we seek justice for the fallen and the death terrorism. (copyrighted by Christianity Today)

War has been a hideous element of human existence since the Fall of Man and reaching forward through the centuries until the return of Christ, if we accept a literal interpretation of what the Bible states concerning the endtimes. The Bible clearly gives us no reason to hope that wars will end before the Second Coming. That, of course, does not equate to a belief that we should identify ourselves as warmongers, but “peace at all costs” for entire nations is likewise not supported by the Bible or early Christian saints–such as Saint Thomas Aquinas (see writings on warfare and self-defense). It is of particular interest that we refer to the Fall of Man in this context, since our coalition forces now tread through deserts, where some believe, the sand storms blow close to the ancient location of the Garden of Eden. We return, then, to our birthplace with weapons drawn and the lines of soldiers–and our machines-- marching always forward for a cause greater then themselves, a cause made necessary because of what happened in this region’s ancient past.

**
[/quote]

As I have said before, Jesus said if a man slaps you one one cheek, turn the other cheek. He did NOT say if a man rapes and murders your wife, stand aside while he does the same with your daughter.

Public officials have a duty to protect, and cannot turn the nation’s cheek when we are attacked.


#8

[quote=vern humphrey]As I have said before, Jesus said if a man slaps you one one cheek, turn the other cheek. He did NOT say if a man rapes and murders your wife, stand aside while he does the same with your daughter.

Public officials have a duty to protect, and cannot turn the nation’s cheek when we are attacked.
[/quote]

The martyrs did not have a choice of their execution. Eithe deny God, or perish. I am not sure how pacifism could be equated with that. vern is right that we have a duty to protect our home and our country, but I am guessing most pacifists in the situation vern listed would react without guilt on their conscience. Thanks and God Bless.


#9

I used to be a pacifist for Biblical reasons, but I ended up abandoning just recently for philosophical reasons. I would like to read your paper.

I don’t see a conflict between martyrdom and non-pacifism, but what I’m curious about is how you reconcile non-pacifism with the early church’s reluctance to join the military. Several of the early church Fathers (e.g. Tertullian) chastised Christians who were in the military, and we have some stories of soldiers who refused military service once they converted to Christianity.


#10

[quote=vern humphrey]As I have said before, Jesus said if a man slaps you one one cheek, turn the other cheek. He did NOT say if a man rapes and murders your wife, stand aside while he does the same with your daughter.

Public officials have a duty to protect, and cannot turn the nation’s cheek when we are attacked.
[/quote]

In the trials on pacificts through the world wars they were often asked whether they would stand aside and let their families be raped without fighting back.

However, that’s an unfair question. No one (or nearly no one) would stand aside. But that’s a different thing to firing guns at strangers half of whom would not be there except for fear and force.

If someone was busily raping my family, sure I’d do my best to stop them. But that would not involve killing them except by purest accident.

When would they have a chance to repent if I killed them? If we truly hold life as sacred, does that include an “enemy” soldier who needs Jesus and who we are commanded to love?

Standing around quietly watching as your family is raped and killed is a very different thing to going to war.

On a separate issue:

Recently the US government allocated an extra 82 billion dollars to the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. To fight the war against terror. Do you know how much the United Nations says it would cost to alleviate world poverty so that everyone would have decent food, water, clothing, education and housing? It is 80 billion dollars.

Personally I think that, long term, spending the cash on feeding, clothing, housing and educating the poor of the world would be a much better weapon in the war against terror. Feed a man, he is your friend. Kill a man, and others rise up as your enemy.

(if all “evangelical” christians in the US tithed, this would release, it is estimated, about 140 billion extra dollars - enough to solve these problems and have 60 billion left over for evangelising etc).

Blessings

Asteroid

This is interesting - it’s not from a Catholic but from a protestant group that helped me a lot through their writings a few years ago: bruderhof.com/articles/ea/BattleLines.htm


#11

Give them every penny you can find, won’t do a bit of good. Their poverty is caused by oppressive regimes. It’s how they get rid of those they don’t want around.


#12

[quote=asteroid]In the trials on pacificts through the world wars they were often asked whether they would stand aside and let their families be raped without fighting back.

However, that’s an unfair question. No one (or nearly no one) would stand aside. But that’s a different thing to firing guns at strangers half of whom would not be there except for fear and force.
[/quote]

No it is not an unfair question. Who would protect his own is duty bound to aid his neighbor when his family needs protection.

[quote=asteroid]If someone was busily raping my family, sure I’d do my best to stop them. But that would not involve killing them except by purest accident…
[/quote]

Obviously all your experience with violence is through your imagaination,

[quote=asteroid]Standing around quietly watching as your family is raped and killed is a very different thing to going to war.
[/quote]

Indeed it is – the first (standing around watching) is cowardly. The second is honorably duing your duty.

[quote=asteroid]Recently the US government allocated an extra 82 billion dollars to the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. To fight the war against terror. Do you know how much the United Nations says it would cost to alleviate world poverty so that everyone would have decent food, water, clothing, education and housing? It is 80 billion dollars.
[/quote]

Let the UN first account for all the “oil for food” money that went to the Hussain regime. How much got to the hungry people of Iraq? And how much went into the pockets of crooked UN officials?


#13

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