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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, October 10, 2014

Christian Pacifism: A Pagan Philosophy

Christian Pacifism: A Pagan Philosophy

By: Paul Bollinger

In college, I met a number of individuals who were Christians and pacifists. At first I was intrigued by their interpretation of the Bible. They quoted many verses that seemed to support their case. However upon further investigation, I soon found that Christian pacifism is a philosophy that contradicts the Bible’s teachings. The Bible teaches that sometimes Christians should be physically violent.

Ecclesiastes 3:1&8
Ecclesiastes 3:1&8 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time for war, and a time for peace.
These two verses alone should be enough to settle the issue. Here the Bible clearly says that there is an appropriate time for war, just as there is an appropriate time for peace. However pacifists will argue that this verse is from the Old Testament and does not apply to Christians. It is true that some Old Testament passages are not binding on Christians. However Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature. The very purpose of wisdom literature is to teach timeless truths, so interpreters should expect this passage to apply in both the Old and New Testament worlds. One of the the basic principles for interpreting wisdom literature is that their teachings are unaffected by covenants. Old Covenant or New Covenant, this passage both applies and means the same thing. Again this verse should be the beginning and end of every discussion on Christian pacifism, but I will go on to address common passages that pacifists use to support their views.

Matthew 26:51-54
Matthew 26:51-54 says: “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?

This passage records Peter’s attempt to protect Jesus from arrest and crucifixion. Pacifists cite this as an example of Jesus condemnation of violence. However if you read this passage carefully, you will notice that Jesus never condemns violence in it. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away, and then Jesus gives his reasoning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus is warning Peter that if he keeps on fighting, then he is going to die. Jesus doesn’t want Peter to die yet, so he tells him to stop fighting. This does not mean that people should never fight wars. It means that if people are thinking about going to war, then they should do so with the understanding that the war may very well take their lives.

Some things are worth fighting and dying for. Keeping Jesus off of the cross is not one of them. Jesus says this when he tells Peter, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Here Jesus is telling Peter that if he didn’t want to go to the cross, then he wouldn’t have to. However Jesus knows that the prophesies in scripture and his Father’s will requires him to die on the cross. Therefore Jesus tells Peter that he should not fight and die to prevent Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Some things are worthy of fighting to the death, but Peter was fighting against God’s plan.

It is notable that Jesus did not say, “Peter, put down your sword, for violence, killing, and warfare are evil.” If Jesus had said this, then this passage could be used in support of pacifism. However Jesus made no mention of Peter’s actions being evil in and of themselves. Jesus only said that he didn’t want Peter to die, and in this specific situation, it is not appropriate to fight to prevent the crucifixion, for the crucifixion is God’s will.

Matthew 5:38-42
In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Pacifists use this passage to teach that Christians should not ever violently fight back against anyone. Pacifists especially love verse 39 which says, “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Once in class,  a fellow student cited this verse for her theoretical commitment to not fighting back against anyone, including a rapists that forced his way into her house. She was committed to allowing herself to be raped, because of this verse.

Some in the class considered her view to be very pious, but frankly that interpretation sickens me. Because I do not think this passage applies to physically dangerous assaults of any kind. Call me crazy, but I believe a slap is used primarily to insult or shame someone. Slaps are not primarily used to cause physical injury. How someone can escalate a slap into a punch, and a punch into rape is beyond me. But let’s pretend for a second that my fellow student was right and this passage does apply to a rapist breaking into your house. If that’s the case, then Jesus doesn’t just want you to allow yourself to be raped. He wants you to turn the other cheek. Jesus wants you to go the extra mile. Jesus wants you to make sure the rapist has the best sex of his life. Now do you see why this interpretation sickens me?
In this passage, Jesus is not asking his followers to be a doormat for rape and physical assault. Instead Jesus is teaching his followers to leave vengeance up to God. I will explain this more fully in the next section which deals with the next 6 verses in Matthew.

 Catholicism and the Just War [Defense] Tradition (Part 1 of 6) 

 Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus continues preaching in Matthew 5:43-48 where he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Pacifists love this passage, because they argue that you cannot love your enemy if you are causing them physical harm, and they are correct. You can not love your enemy while causing them physical harm. One of my professors used to say that you can’t love your enemies if you are staring at them through the sights of a rifle. It made for a nice proverb, but poor Biblical interpretation. You see most pacifists that I have met are great at loving their enemies but very poor at loving their friends.

The Bible commands us to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), our wives (Ephesians 5:25), our husbands (Titus 2:4), our children (Ephesians 6:4 and Titus 2:4), other Christians (John 13:34), and even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Now as a Christian I believe it is my responsibility to love God first, my wife second, children third, other Christians fourth, and my enemies fifth. If I have to choose between letting my wife get raped and killing someone to protect her, I believe God would be more pleased with me protecting my wife than loving my enemy. Just as God was pleased with Rahab (Joshua 2:1-7) and Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:15-21) for telling a lie to protect people’s lives, so also God would be pleased with me loving and protecting my wife. Some commandments are more important to keep than others (Matthew 23:23). I believe that it is more important to love my wife and children than to love my enemies. Pacifists seem to disagree.

All religions/humanity will be formally united
very soon under the threat of war/terrorism
Let us return to Matthew 5 which tells us to love our enemies. It is important to remember that this is not the first time in the Bible that we are told to love our enemies. Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” This means that Jesus is not giving a new commandment in Matthew 5, but rather reminding his people of forgotten scripture. And wouldn’t you know it, this passage in Proverbs is written by Solomon. He’s the same Biblical author who wrote the passage in Ecclesiastes which we quoted earlier: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1&8). Obviously Solomon doesn’t mean to imply that we should love our enemies in every situation. Otherwise he would not have told us to both love our enemies in need and kill our enemies in war. In Matthew 5, Jesus is reminding his people of the forgotten scripture teaching us to love our enemies in need. Today pacifists need to be reminded of of the forgotten scriptures teaching us to kill our enemies in war.

Proverbs 25 shows that loving your enemy means doing good things for him when he is in need. Obviously there is a limit to the aid/love you should provide for your enemies. Just as you should not finance the building of a Muslim Mosque and thereby encourage idolatry (see my other post “Jihad Against Stupid Christians”), so also you should not help your enemy rape your wife. However, God would be very pleased with you for feeding your starving foe. In other words, there is a limit to the love that you should show your enemies. The Bible does not command Christians to love all their enemies all the time in every situation. God loved his enemies by sending his son to die on the cross, but God’s love for his enemies has limits. And these limits are why God sends his enemies to Hell.

Matthew 5 is not the first time we are told to love our enemies in the Bible and its not the last time either. Romans 12:19-20 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Here Paul provides us one of the motivations for loving our enemies. Paul says that by loving our enemies as they abuse us, we are bringing God’s wrath and vengeance upon them on our behalf. In other words, you  don’t always have to fight back, because if you don’t fight back, then God will. And God is a better fighter than you are.

Francis, the Modernist, Pacifist & Protestant
with his erroneous understanding of peace
Now of course our greatest motivation for loving our enemies should be a desire to see them come to repentance. However if they do not repent, we are consoled by the knowledge that God will give them their due. But again this concept of leaving vengeance up to God best applies to situations where our enemies shame us (and we must turn the other cheek) or legally harass us (and we must give up our cloak or go the extra mile). That is why the Matthew passage on loving our enemies comes directly after the passage on turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. When Jesus says love your enemies, he does not expect us to love our enemies in every situation. That is why he listed three specific examples of situations in which we must love our enemies (It is also interesting to note that Jesus himself fights back and slaughters his enemies in Revelation 19:11-21.).

And even if you are not sold on the idea of Christians hating their enemies, you have admit that protecting others from physical and sexual abuse doesn’t have to be vengeance at all. It can be an act of love for the victim, not hatred towards the criminal. If I were to witness someone being stabbed, I could attack the criminal out of love for the victim. Jesus expects us to endure much abuse from our enemies out of love. However, Jesus does not expect us to endure every kind of abuse. Some situations merit fighting back. And in fact, none of these passages from Matthew 5 or Matthew 26 directly address the issue of physical or sexual abuse, even though pacifists often claim that they do.

Conclusion
I will be the first to admit that there are times when Christians must endure abuse without violently fighting back out. However to insist that there is never a time to fight goes against scripture. A loving husband will violently protect his wife and children from rape and murder. Furthermore scripture clearly states that sometimes war/violence is appropriate (Genesis 9:6, Ecclesiastes 3:1&8, Romans 13:4, Revelation 19:11-21). Only a theology that allows for both the appropriateness of violence and pacifism in different situations will be able to incorporate all of the scriptures. As Christians sometimes we must fight and sometimes we must suffer. To insist on one or the other requires ignoring large sections of the Bible.

*This reminder, from even a non-catholic, is timely, given the increasing pacificism coming from Vatican II's New Religion which is rooted in man-worship.

"But there are other hidden dangers lurking for Christians, other than real and potential persecution. This includes pressure from those – in both the Middle East and the West – who are promoting the formation of armed “Christian brigades” called to participate in the struggle against he jihadists. “But as men of the Church we cannot incite Christians to take up arms and take part in the conflict,” said the "wise" Archbishop of Hassak√®-Nisibi  (Syria), Jacques Behnan Hindo,  at the end of 2013. “We cannot say such things, it is foolish. It goes against the Gospel and Christian doctrine.”
http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/siria-syria-siria-36844/


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