Monday, 26 March 2007

26 March 2007 - thisischristchurch.blogspot - Is Christian pacifism biblical?
Monday, March 26, 2007

Is Christian pacifism biblical?

The subject of Christian pacifism is worthy of examination in light of the current NZ Parliamentary debate on Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which allows parents to use corrective force on their children. Much of the opposition comes from groups who advocate complete non-violence in society, including various pacifist movements.

Let's take a current events issue such as the war in Iraq and examine where the support and the opposition comes from. On the supporting side are, yes, Christian people, in the US and other countries, and people of largely a right-wing political perspective. On the opposing side are a whole range of views, many of them tied up in socialism, and also Christians who oppose all force - hence these are called Christian Pacifists. In fact, one of the hostage crises in Iraq involved the "Christian Peacemaker Teams" with Quaker associations, and the latter have long been known in the church for a strongly pacifist view.

The main theological line of reasoning for Christian Pacifism starts with Jesus' unction to "love your enemies" found in Matthew 5:43-44. From this we are supposed to accept that this means we should not engage in any use of force against people we don't like or any such thing. But in fact, loving our enemies does not imply that we have to accept what they do or become a doormat to be trampled over by them. This central tenet of Christian pacifism implies that there should be no laws or justice system. Well, if there were no laws, there would be a huge crime problem and society would suffer for it. Because of that being the case, we do have a legal/justice system and it involves the use of corrective force. In John 2:15, we read that Jesus took a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. Quite clearly, Jesus believed that force was justified in certain contexts. And of course, Jesus was executed and it was God's will that he be executed. God had no qualms about the use of physical force against His own Son.

A Christian pacifist might argue that if we saw evil in the world, we should just let it go past and not do anything about it. After all, if force was involved, that would be the greater evil. This all falls down when we consider the situation of World War II. Hitler was eventually crushed by the armies of the Allied powers, but not before he had managed to snuff out the lives of six million Jews and at least another six million Europeans. The war against Hitler's tyranny wasn't won by pacifism, it was won by military might and many Christians went out and fought on that basis.

Most Christian pacifists want to deny the Old Testament when God sent His own warriors of Israel into battle to crush the evil in Canaan and other lands around Jerusalem. It's a fact that God uses force against evil, including the hands of His own servants. However, this tends to get glossed over by Christian pacifists. In the New Testament, of course, we have the Book of Revelation making again references to the military power of God and His armies coming out to crush the evil.

A way way way back in this blog, perhaps at the very beginning, I posted an article about good vs evil dualism. I guess the average biblopacifist would object to certain countries being judged as evil and others as good. They would argue that this unfairly stigmatises various countries. The fact remains, however, that if we want to defend our way of life, the freedoms that we enjoy in this country, then we must recognise the evil in our midst. Biblopacifists will still say that the US got what was coming to it. The US somehow deserved to get hit by Al-Qaeda. Of course, this exactly the kind of judgement being made that we are not supposed to make of certain countries as the pacifists would have it. Saddam Hussein got a bad rap, didn't he. It is all quite contradictory.

The biggest political problem for biblopacifism is that, like other forms of pacifism, its adherents tend to have an overwhelmingly left-wing political perspective; this really puts biblopacifism as an adaption of existing pacifist beliefs into a Christian perspective, rather than the other way around. Pacifism is strongly rooted in humanism and other anti-Christian (including religious) perspectives on life, so it is not a belief that is naturally suited to Christianity. This type of belief was extremely prevalent and at its peak in the early years of the 19th century - and then along came World War 1 and the idea that humanism and rationalism were going to produce a better world quickly died a sudden and deserved death. Pacifism dropped around that time, and in the Second World War in NZ, military conscription was supported by certain former pacifists in the Labour Government of the era.

The next biggest problem for biblopacifism is its strong association with liberal churches, that deny the authenticity of large chunks of the Bible. Obviously, this is necessary, in order to chop out those bits that contradict what Jesus supposedly commanded or expected all Christians to behave like. Why stop there, of course? Soon, every word that Jesus said can have a different meaning and be reinterpreted to mean something else, or nothing at all. Once that rot has started, it's very difficult to stop it.

The biggest problem in society is that many types of evil are only checked by the use of corrective force. For many evangelical Christians, their faith requires them to act, if necessary physically, against the evil in society. This is called being a "doer of the Word" rather than just someone who listens but does nothing. I believe that is the correct view to take in the Church. To do nothing means to allow evil to triumph. That is not what Christians should endorse in the world. We must oppose all attempts to water down or do away with corrective force and a justice system in society. Christian pacifism is really anathema to us Evangelicals; biblopacificists have replaced the spiritual power of the Christian gospel with a weak social gospel that challenges and confronts no one about their spiritual deficiencies.

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