Reformed Christian Pacifism

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Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Do you disagree with the principle? I haven't studied the paedobaptists' arguments to any major extent, but from what I understand the credobaptist defense focuses not on that principle but on the paedobaptists' assumption that baptism and circumcision have a one-to-one relationship. That being the case, I don't think I've committed that error here.

You are correct in stating that a large portion of the credo arguemnt is based upon the reality that baptism and circumcision do not have a direct correlation. But, I would say that, for me, and for some other Calvinistic Baptists, a large part of the argument is whether the church is still to operate on a national level. The reality that the church no longer is to be a national organization and a political entity as it was under the old administration lends to the idea that baptism is onlyl to be given to those who give credible profession of faith beforehand. Walter Chantry directly ties the idea of a state church to the practice of paedobaptism.

http://http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/chantry/bc.htm

But we need not impose a difference where none exists. In this case, "pacifism" is taught in identical terms under both the Old and New Covenants.

The way I understand it, governmental nonparticipation (i.e., Christians aren't allowed to take government office) hinges upon the New Testament's definition of pacifism excluding government office. Is this a fair estimation of your position? If not, please clarify. Thanks.

You are correct, that I (though I must say am not firmly committed to the idea) would have to find the idea that Christian shouldn't or can't take government office in the New Testament. (Let me first state that, though this may seem contradictory, I am not opposed to voting.) But, I would say that my understanding of the New Covenant and the New Testament would seem to indicate that the disciple must lose everything, must abandon all that he knows for the sake of the call of Christ. My belief in Christian non-violence is based upon a more literal understanding of our union with Christ and looking at the actions of the first disciples and the apostles. I stress and belabor the point that Christ bore us in his flesh, he bore our flesh. We are so closely tied to him, he is our master and we can only go where he wills because he still is the only source of holiness for wretched sinners. He justified sinners on the cross, he didn't seek personal defense or restitution for himself. Christ conquered evil by patient suffering, do we think that we will conquer evil in some other fashion? Do we think that Christ didn't understand how evil the world is, because he didn't use force? Perhaps the Jews were right and Christ really was a military, geopolitical Messiah?

Bonhoeffer states in best when he comments on Matthew 5:38-42:

"At this point it become evident that when a Christian meets with injustice, he no longer clings to his rights and defends them at all costs. He is absolutely free from possessions and bound to Christ alone. Again, his witness to this exclusive adherence to Jesus creates the only workable basis for fellowship, and leave the aggressor for him to deal with.

The only way to over come evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounter no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets and opponent which is more than its match. Of course this can only happen when the last ounce of resistance is abandoned, and the renunciation of revenge is complete. Then evil cannot find its mark, it can breed no further evil, and is left barren.

By willing endurance we cause suffering to pass. Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. By refusing to pay back the enemy in his own coin, and by preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult. Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence. When a man unjustly demands that I should give him my coast, I offer him my cloak also, and so counter his demand’ when he requires me to go the other mile, I go willingly, and show up his exploitation of my service for what it is. To leave everything behind at the call of Christ is to be content with him alone, and to follow only him. By his willingly renouncing self-defense, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego. The exclusiveness of this adherence is the only power which can overcome evil.
We are concerned not with evil in the abstract, but with the evil person. Jesus bluntly calls the evil person evil. If I am assailed, I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance of evil does not mean recognition of its rights. That is sheer sentimentality, and Jesus will have nothing to do with it. The shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. The disciple must realize this, and bear witness to it as Jesus did, just because this is the only way evil can be meet and overcome. The very fact that the evil which assaults him is unjustifiable make it imperative that he should not resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil.
There is no deed on earth so outrageous as to justify a different attitude. The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer; he must let the evil person fall into Jesus’ hands.

The Reformers offered a decisively new interpretation of this passage, and contributed a new idea of paramount importance. They distinguished between personal sufferings and those incurred by Christians in the performance of duty as bearers of an office ordained by God, maintaining that the precept of non-violence applies to the first but not to the second. In the second case we are not only freed from obligation to eschew violence, but if we want to act in a genuine spirit of love we must do the very opposite and meet fore with force in order to check the assault of evil. It was along these lines that the Reformers justified war and other legal sanctions against evil. But this distinction between person and office is wholly alien to the teaching of Jesus. He says nothing about that. HE addresses his disciples as men who have left all to follow him, and the precept of non-violence applies equally to private life and official duty. He is the Lord of all life, and demands undivided allegiance. Furthermore, when it comes to practice, this distinction raises insoluble difficulties. Am I ever acting only as a private person or only in an official capacity? If I am attacked am I not at once the father of my children, the pastor of my flock, and e.g. a government official? Am I not bound for that very reason to defense myself against every attack, for reason of responsibility to my office? And am I not also always an individual, face to face with Jesus, even in the performance of my official duties? Am I not therefore obliged to resist every attack just because of my responsibility for my office? Is it right to forget that the follower of Jesus is always utterly alone, always the individual, who in the last resort can only decide and act for himself? Don’t we act most responsibility on behalf of those entrusted to our care if we act in this aloneness?

How then can the precept of Jesus be justified in the light of experience? It is obvious that weakness and defenselessness only invite aggression. Is then the demand of Jesus nothing but an impracticable ideal? Does he refuse to face up to realities-or shall we say, to the sin of the world? There may of course be a legitimate place for such an ideal in the inner life of the Christian community, but in the outside world such an ideal appears to wear the blinkers of perfectionism, and to take no account of sin. Living as we do in a world of sin and evil, we can have no truck with anything as impracticable as that.

Jesus, however, tells us that it is just because we live in the world, and just because the world is evil, that the precept of non-resistance must be put into practice. Surely we do not wish to accuse Jesus of ignoring the reality and power of evil! Why, the whole of his life was one long conflict with the devil. He calls evil evil, and this is the very reason why he speaks to his followers in this way. How is that possible?

If we took the precept of non-resistance as an ethical blueprint for general application, we should indeed be indulging in idealistic dreams: we should be dreaming of a utopia with laws which the world would never obey. To make non-resistance a principle for secular life is to deny God, by undermining his gracious ordinance for the preservation of the world. But Jesus is no draughtsman of political blue prints, he is the one who vanquished evil through suffering. It looked as though evil had triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus. And the cross is the only justification for the precept of nonviolence, for it alone can kindle a faith in the victory over evil which will enable men to obey that precept. And only such obedience is blessed with the promise that we shall be partakers of Christ’s victory as well as of his sufferings.

The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. Once again, Jesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from the passion in our lives?”
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Do you disagree with the principle? I haven't studied the paedobaptists' arguments to any major extent, but from what I understand the credobaptist defense focuses not on that principle but on the paedobaptists' assumption that baptism and circumcision have a one-to-one relationship. That being the case, I don't think I've committed that error here.

You are correct in stating that a large portion of the credo arguemnt is based upon the reality that baptism and circumcision do not have a direct correlation. But, I would say that, for me, and for some other Calvinistic Baptists, a large part of the argument is whether the church is still to operate on a national level. The reality that the church no longer is to be a national organization and a political entity as it was under the old administration lends to the idea that baptism is onlyl to be given to those who give credible profession of faith beforehand. Walter Chantry directly ties the idea of a state church to the practice of paedobaptism.

http://http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/chantry/bc.htm

I don't advocate theonomy or a state church. There's a difference between the church as an institution being the government and a Christian as an individual being in government.

But we need not impose a difference where none exists. In this case, "pacifism" is taught in identical terms under both the Old and New Covenants.

The way I understand it, governmental nonparticipation (i.e., Christians aren't allowed to take government office) hinges upon the New Testament's definition of pacifism excluding government office. Is this a fair estimation of your position? If not, please clarify. Thanks.

You are correct, that I (though I must say am not firmly committed to the idea) would have to find the idea that Christian shouldn't or can't take government office in the New Testament. (Let me first state that, though this may seem contradictory, I am not opposed to voting.) But, I would say that my understanding of the New Covenant and the New Testament would seem to indicate that the disciple must lose everything, must abandon all that he knows for the sake of the call of Christ. My belief in Christian non-violence is based upon a more literal understanding of our union with Christ and looking at the actions of the first disciples and the apostles. I stress and belabor the point that Christ bore us in his flesh, he bore our flesh. We are so closely tied to him, he is our master and we can only go where he wills because he still is the only source of holiness for wretched sinners. He justified sinners on the cross, he didn't seek personal defense or restitution for himself. Christ conquered evil by patient suffering, do we think that we will conquer evil in some other fashion? Do we think that Christ didn't understand how evil the world is, because he didn't use force? Perhaps the Jews were right and Christ really was a military, geopolitical Messiah?

Let me try to extract the logic behind your argument.

p1. Jesus conquered evil through patient suffering.
c. The only way to conquer evil is through patient suffering.

As it stands, this argument is a non sequitur--the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. If we use the same logic, we can reach the following (hopefully absurd) conclusion:

p1. Jesus ate his fish broiled.
c. The only way to eat fish is broiled.

I think there's actually a second, hidden, premise:

p2. The way Jesus does something is the only way to do it.

In which case, your argument is valid, but unsound, unless you have Scriptural support for this premise. If not, then your argument fails.

I appreciate that you're considering these things. I wish more people would. :)
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I'd like to thank the mods for allowing this thread to remain open. I think this is a helpful topic to discuss even if it is unconfessional. :)
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Jesus also specifically stated why he did not defend himself - He had a greater purpose: to fulfill what the Prophets had spoken, redeeming mankind according to his Father's plan. Otherwise he could have called ten legions of angels to his defense. But he did not call the angels because he had a more important battle to fight and a more important enemy to slay.

Besides, even if we established that passive non-resistance is generally the way for a Christian to act when it's just him and the other guy, that still doesn't prove your idea that Christians cannot carry out the necessary duties of government, like punishing crime or, in some cases, even waging war.
 
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Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
While I know this may seem rather out of place, in that it is so simple, and so many are discussing the issue with such fervor, being a Westminster man, the WLC in question 135 and 136 states clearly what is required by the sixth commandment ...
Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

If it is lawful to use force to preserve our own life, or the life of others, we are required to do it. It is not okay for us to not defend our life and the life of others.

To defend the weak is commanded. If I do not defend myself as well, do I not leave the weak (my wife and children) without defense? I see pacifism as a great evil that is held to by misreading the scriptures. The choice one faces when confronted by someone that uses violence against someone (violence being the unjust use of force) is not always so clear, but the choice is there ... does one allow evil to win the battle, or does one use lawful force to defend the innocent? If evil is to be suppressed, then we must be ready to use force to suppress it.
 

Houston E.

Puritan Board Freshman
Particular Baptist,

If you were being attacked, would it be wrong of a neighbor to come and defend you
from the attacker? Would you reject their assistance?

Blessings,

Sir,

I have stated before that I do not believe on an individual basis to assist someone else being attacked. That is the only time that I personally can see force being an appropriate measure.

Spencer

:confused: I think you meant that you believe force is appropriate when assisting someone....

But I asked about yourself. Would you accept or reject assistance if it was YOU being attacked?
 

kjat32

Puritan Board Freshman
While I know this may seem rather out of place, in that it is so simple, and so many are discussing the issue with such fervor, being a Westminster man, the WLC in question 135 and 136 states clearly what is required by the sixth commandment ...
Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

If it is lawful to use force to preserve our own life, or the life of others, we are required to do it. It is not okay for us to not defend our life and the life of others.

To defend the weak is commanded. If I do not defend myself as well, do I not leave the weak (my wife and children) without defense? I see pacifism as a great evil that is held to by misreading the scriptures. The choice one faces when confronted by someone that uses violence against someone (violence being the unjust use of force) is not always so clear, but the choice is there ... does one allow evil to win the battle, or does one use lawful force to defend the innocent? If evil is to be suppressed, then we must be ready to use force to suppress it.

I would just like to point out, since the W. Confession is quoted regarding this issue so much, that the Confession is not the Bible. It is a guide only, and while very nice, is not the final authority - it absolutely CANNOT "command" us! The men at Westminster were fallible as well, and certainly being English, magisterial and 17th century influenced their views; warfare today is NOT the same as it was back then, and I think that while the Confession has much good to say to guide us it is not sufficient to guide us today on warfare.

Also, evil is not to be "suppressed" by force! It is to be fought spiritually - read the Bible!
"• II Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

These verses make it clear that our fight is spiritual. Note the Corinthians verse that says “we do not wage war as the world does.” And Jesus commands Peter not to fight. Rather, we are to live our lives in such a way as to make the teachings of Christ attractive to others and to pray unceasingly, for these are our acts of worship and our spiritual warfare. As we can see from early church history, those who knew Jesus and strove to follow these teachings in every way were more effective at changing the world than any war since!" (my article at sight)

As to pacifism being evil, well, I personally think it was the pacifism of all of Europe that led to WWII in the first place! If there had been proper Christian non-resistance (which is different than pacifism) then as soon as Hitler started being aggressive, the other countries would have stood to resist him - not by striking back but by standing their ground, which they so obviously did not. The Bible says that
"Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. "

Standing firm is very clearly commanded, not taking up our sword to go defend all the weak and helpless in the earth. That is a "police state" nationalistic idea, not a Christian one.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
There is an irony to the sharp criticism of quoting a Confession. It goes something like this:

1. What the Church has confessed that the Scriptures teach in the Westminster Confession is easily dismissible because it was produced by fallible men.

BUT

2. What I conclude from reading the Bible and quoting a few passages about Christian resistance ought to be given the weight of the authority of Scripture.

Modernity gives us the utmost confidence in the ability of our minds to properly apprehend the Scriptures. So much confidence, in fact, that the teaching role ordained by Christ in Ephesians 4 has little to say to us if we're confident we know what the Scriptures say.

The Westminster Standards serve as the doctrinal standard for this board because we find the counsel of many elders to be preferable to the many people who rightly understand that no Church has infallible man but wrongly and pridefully conclude that they possess an infallible capacity to divide the Word of God.

In other words, don't expect me to easily jettison the deliberations of fallible men, with the promised gifting of the Savior, engaged in theological dialogue across the centuries for a fallible man's shallow exposition of a few verses.
 
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