Ron Sider against ALL killing

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Jerusalem Blade, Oct 20, 2013.

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  1. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    In this CT article, Were the Church Fathers Consistently Pro-Life?, Ron Sider tries to make a case that in the early church those fathers who wrote anything about killing were unanimously against it, and they should be listened to as they were closer to what Jesus and the apostles actually said than later centuries.

    The article states that he will be updating his former book on nonviolence, and then will write what he says is his “best book on biblical pacifism”.

    Now pacifism is not my view, but I would be interested in seeing a refutation of where Sider’s scholarship is going, namely, a complete pacifistic stance which he says is based on Scripture.

    I know the Westminster Standards are clear on this, but I would like to see a Scriptural refutation of this view – for that is what must be marshaled against his claims. And I should add, from the New Testament primarily, as therein are the “marching orders” for the saints in Christ.
  2. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I am working on something along those lines in a series of posts on my blog (in my signature), but it's a work in progress and not yet complete. If you're interested, you can follow the blog to receive updates by email as it develops. I'd welcome any feedback.

    I'm writing particularly in response to the Anabaptist & co. formulation of nonresistance, but (without looking into Sider's arguments more closely) I suspect many of his prooftexts will be along the same lines. I plan to spend most of my time developing the Scriptures' teachings on violence rather than strictly rebutting a particular position, so hopefully it will be applicable to Sider's position as well regardless.

    For a short book that I've found valuable, see also Loraine Boettner's "The Christian Attitude Towards War":

    The Christian Attitude Toward War: Loraine Boettner: 9780875521183: Books
  3. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

  4. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    What is wrong with the scripture proofs from the Westminster Standards? Specifically I'm thinking WLC 134-136 would be helpful.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I know the Calvinist International guys have done work on the early church and pacifism. I used to go to school with a bunch of disciples of Yoder. I never thought they honestly dealt with the claims where John the Baptist told the soldiers to behave (but not to stop killing) or that Paul said he was in Caesar's court where he out to be tried (sort of refutes the whole counter-polis movement) and was okay with the death penalty.

    Sider writes,
    That's a dangerous line of argument. Every single Orthodox apologist I have debated has said that (though change the terms from "war" to "Eucharist, Bishop, tradition, etc." If Sider were consistent with that claim he would become Orthodox or Catholic. Of course, he is smart enough to see that and pulls the sola scriptura card at the very end. The problem with that line of thought, as every critic of Yoder points out, is that the New Testament is very clear on pro-war and pro-capital punishment.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2013
  6. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Jacob, thanks for those blog posts. I'm looking forward to reading them.
  7. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know much about Sider, but it would seem that this would hinge in some way upon a dispensational view. There's plenty in the Old Testament if one wants to look at all of Scripture, I would think one could only argue the way Sider does if one took the "Jesus trumps all" view.

    I just think back to Genesis 9:5, 6 "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

    Noting that this was a covenant made with all mankind, before the law, and that the reason annexed is that man is made in God's image---I would think that this, like the Sabbath, is an abiding command.
  8. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    It usually isn't dispensationalism proper, but I've often heard proponents of nonresistance say that Jesus "changed the Law" or "perfected the Law," especially with reference to His Sermon on the Mount (where he says "You have heard, but I say," etc.). There tends to be a sense that the Old Testament is the "ugly stepsister" that has a few good points here and there but is mostly full of bad examples and compromises on God's part.
  9. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    The irony of Genesis 9:6 is that it is a proof text for Matthew 26:52,
    Then said Jesus unto him, "Put up again Thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"

    Matthews 26:52 seems to teach that "Christians" are NOT to use violent means even if Christ's life depends on it! ;)

    I few more verses that come to mind...
    Psalm 55:23
    Ezekiel 35:5, 6
    Romans 12:19
    Matthew 5:38-45 (specifically verse 39)
    1 Peter 4:16-19
    1 Corinthians 4:11,12
    2 Corinthians 10:3
  10. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not seeing the connection, what do you mean?

    Only if you make no distinction between who is to wield the sword and who is not. Calvin has some good comments on this passage:

  11. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I don't think Jesus was referring to Genesis when He made that statement.
  12. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I think the Genesis verse refers to the magistrate's responsibility, in the positive. Reference Romans 13:4
    The Matthew verse refers to the individual's responsibility, in the negative.

    Incidentally Steve, perhaps Romans 13:4 is a good passage to look at and discuss.
  13. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I think this may actually be relevant to the topic: I'd be interested in discussing why Peter was told to put his sword away (not get rid of it, but put it into its sheath John 18:10). I.e., what was wrong about him using it in that situation? It was Christ's time? It was resisting the authorities? It was done in anger?

    I assume the Sider talks about this passage, may even use it as a proof text.

    It was not apparently wrong for Peter to carry it though, since Jesus said in Luke 22:36 to sell his garment and buy a sword (perhaps figuratively), to which the disciples said they had two swords and Jesus replied "it is enough". No condemnation of the sword, just of what Peter did in that instant. I admit I've not done any study on these passages and what the implication is.

    Both Poole and Calvin seem to indicate that this was Peter taking the position of magistrate, which was not his to take.
  14. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Jesus Himself tells us why.

    Jesus chose to turn himself in peacefully, so as to fulfill the Scriptures. Had He wanted to resist, He could have.

    As far as the "those who take the sword will perish by the sword" construction goes, there's a similar verse in Revelations 13:

    The ESV phrases it differently though. I'm not sure why the difference, or how the two passages are related. The similarity in the KJV suggests that Christ intended this also as a call for patience, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

  15. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks all for your input!

    I’ll be following your discussion on this in your blog, Jonathan. I like your approach.

    With regard to Jesus telling Peter to put up his sword in Matt 26:52, the articles Jacob referenced – Was Jesus a Pacifist? – have a good take:


    As we noted in the first installment of this series, when Jesus said to Peter (Matt 26:52), “Put your sword back into its place[, f]or all who take the sword will perish by the sword”, he uttered a common piece of timeless wisdom. This statement finds OT precedents, where it could not be pacifistic. What it really means is something people have truly recognized forever: that unjust aggression provokes vengeance from others. At least in the OT, however, this was not taken to mean that state coercion could never be effective. Further, it would find clear application in the case of revolutionaries and the seditious. These people, the OT taught, were very likely to meet a nasty end as a result of state vengeance. It is this aspect of the saying in particular which directly applies in Jesus’ context, for Peter’s violent act was committed against deputies of the state, and no doubt had a zealot holy war ideology as its engine. But Jesus knew the zealot agenda had no chance of succeeding against the might of the first century Roman empire. All those who took up the sword in that sense and context would surely die by it. And sadly, because they did not heed his warning, that is exactly what happened to Jewish zealot movements in 70 AD.​

    Andrew, yes, the WLC has some pertinent material, such as 135A’s “just defense against violence” proofed by Ps 82:4. I’ll have to ponder Prov 24:11-12 further, as I had always read it as referring to those – for us in the NT age – in “fatal ease” heading for eternal torment, and our witnessing to them of Christ. Though indeed in the OT, and now, it can refer to physical death. And “protecting and defending the innocent” is pertinent, though I don’t find in the proofs for that a warrant for physical defense.

    In WLC 136A’s “taking away the life . . . of others . . . [in] necessary defense . . . [and using] lawful and necessary means of preservation of life” the use of Exodus 22:2 is pertinent in A.D. times through the principle of general equity.

    While general equity – from OT to NT – rightly used is a most valuable exegetical method, when arguing with those who do not subscribe to or appreciate the Westminster Standards (or other Reformed confessions), one must base one’s arguments strictly upon Scripture. Nor do I think that so important a matter as the taking of a life in defense of a life is not adequately addressed by Jesus and the apostles. It must be recognized that in many things our “marching orders” differ from those under Moses’ law, and to clarify this (for me, at any rate) is the purpose of this thread.

    I like Jonathan’s blog in the approach he seems to be taking, and also some of the points in the blog Jacob referenced.

    I live in a densely populated area of NYC, and I think that our societal structures shall be shaken so that domestic unrest will be widespread throughout the land. So I think to protect myself and my wife against, for instance, home invasion, when the civil magistrate’s forces are not present to protect the citizens. Sider’s views are disconcerting in such scenarios for they seem to say to Christians, “Let evil overrun the world as far as you using force in any capacity – for you are only to speak to it, or run from it.”

    I anticipate Sider – or his colleagues – using this saying of Jesus to promote their view,

    “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).​

    If we would not fight to save the King, should we fight to save a wife? And yet “saving the King” would have thwarted His mission to save the world, so there is a limited application to that saying.

    Responding to violence has long been an area of concern for me. As a young man (am now 71), after leaving the USMC, I began to study the martial arts – at the same time going to college – yet one day almost hurting a friend through a trained reflex action (he was just fooling around) caused me to stop this study.

    I am more afraid of my tendency to violence (old though I am) than of the violence of others. And yet there are times for defense. I don’t like the warrant for that taken from me, unless it be God’s word, which I don’t think it is. I believe in being clear beforehand as regards principled conduct in various situations, that I may act according to principle rather than passion. If I am to end a man’s life while protecting my wife’s and mine (for example) I want with certainty to know I act in accord with God’s law.

    Logan, I do believe that capital punishment is warranted by God, and also that the offices of magistrate and police may be held by a Christian. I am looking at Scriptural principles that apply to private citizens in lawless and perilous times, where no police or law enforcement are present.

    Jonathan, the difference between the Authorized Version and the ESV is the result of variant readings in the Greek editions used. The Greek text of the AV’s Revelation initially developed from those mss providentially provided to editor Erasmus and reflected the readings of what are called the Andreas Group of mss, which differed from the 046 Group used by the Critical Text and the Majority Text. The collator of the book of Revelation, Herman C. Hoskier, said this of Erasmus’ work:

    I may state that if Erasmus had striven to found a text on the largest number of existing MSS in the world of one type, he could not have succeeded better, since his family-MSS occupy the front rank in point of actual numbers, the family numbering over 20 MSS besides its allies. (The John Rylands Bulletin 19-1922/23, p 118.)​

    More on this textual issue may be found here: Responding to James White of AOMIN. But this is really aside from the matter at hand.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2013
  16. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not surprisingly, Sider teaches at an ABC school and attends a Mennonite church in Philadelphia. He is characteristically identified with the "evangelical left."

    While I don't know him personally, his work reminds me of a former parishioner of mine, Glen Stassen at Fuller. Like Glen, Sider has a great respect for the Mennonites and other "peace churches" and both of them show a real affinity for Matthew 5-7.
  17. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    As I read this I thought about Christ saying "let he who is without sin cast the first stone...." Obviously Calvin is very helpful here and those who would wield the sword would do well to filter their qualification to do so through these safeguards.
  18. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

  19. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Of the twelve or so approaches to the Sermon on the Mount, the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition handles it in a way that practically mandates pacifism.

    Of the major views, we have the following handful of the most popular views . . .

    a. Lutheran orthodoxy takes the SonM as "law" so pure and unyielding that it is intended primarily to drive us to the Gospel of grace.
    b. Classic Liberalism saw Jesus’ eschatology as so “realized” that the what we have in the SonM is a kind of "moral map" guiding society toward upward social progress as we celebrate the Fatherhood of God and universal brotherhood of man.
    c. Some biblical scholars see the Evangelist as writing catechetical instructions for application to his community in Palestine.
    d. During the last century, proponents of so-called Existential interpretation (cf. Bultmann) discovered little more than a call to personal decision and authentic faith in the SoM. Unfortunately, they proceeded to strip away and discard the supernatural Object of such faith who issued the summons.
    e. A bunch of critics believed that Jesus was in error in his belief in an imminent end to the world. So they saw these demanding logia as a kind of "interim ethic" to carry the disciples through the brief time before the end.
    f. When I was in seminary it was common to hear that the SonM was a radicalizing of the the Old Testament moral law.
    g. Classic Dispensationalism (not the revisionistic Progressive brand that passes as Dispensationalism today) interpreted the Sermon on the Mount as a law code for the millennial kingdom which Jesus offered to the Jews. Reading the notes to the Scofield Bible we learn that "the Sermon on the Mount in its primary application gives neither the privilege nor the duty of the Church. These are found in the Epistles."

    Finally, the tradition which Sider finds so fascinating, the Anabaptist-Mennonite, tradition explains the ethical demands of the SoM in a literalistic way and applies them to all believers in every age and every circumstance. The philosophy of radical pacifism confronts the world of power and privilege with the ultimate counter-cultural message of the Nazarene and calls for disciples of the Christ to eschew participation in the structures of government or society. Once you buy into the hermeneutics of the radical reformers, you are pretty much required to conclude that Jesus taught radical pacifism. The Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish all reflect (to one degree or another) the impact of this connect-the-dots logic.

    Evangelicals such as Sider and Stassen (son of the former perennial presidential candidate Harold Stassen) have drunk deeply from the waters of the radical Reformation and employ its hermeneutical insights quite consciously in their writings.

    BTW - if you are ever in northeast IN, make a point of visiting the Mennohof in Shipshewana. The historical theologian in me LOVES all things Reformational and pretty much every well done museum. The Mennohof is a wonderful trip through the past with rooms laid out like dungeons, ships, tornado rooms, and the like. It traces the three branches of the Anabaptist family (Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish) in Europe and America in a most fascinating way. While I DISAGREE radically with their theology, this is a most educational augment to what you already know about the Reformed and Lutheran branches of the Reformation. You could race through it in an hour. Reading all of the exhibit information would take more like 2 hrs. In the last room they even let you try on Amish clothing in a recreated Amish house.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013
  20. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    Does Augustine count as a church father?

    City of God
  21. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The one question I wanted answers to has not yet been answered. I agree that the civil magistrate has warrant from God to execute those whose crimes merit such, and that Christians may hold that office.

    What I wanted to know is if the Scriptures have anything to say about private citizens using lethal force to defend their families, themselves, and helpless people in lawless times, when the civil magistrate is not available or unable to come to the defense of its citizens.

    IN the WLC 136 A, an exception to the prohibition against taking of life is found in the clause, “except….[for] necessary defense”, with the proof text Exodus 22:2, “If a thief be found breaking up [i.e., in], and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” The general equity I believe would warrant force that may be lethal in the event of a home invasion in our days.

    An apparent qualification for this warrant is found in verse 3, “If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him” – the presumption being that a burglar would not break in in the daylight, so that murder would likely be the case. But this qualification would be obviated in a situation involving riotous times where daylight break-ins would be common.

    I know a lot of folks buy firearms for just such occasions, as maniacs and bold killers abound in our land, and “protecting and defending the innocent” (WLC 135 A) is shown to be a duty to the godly, though Scripture proofs for using potentially lethal force in this case are not given.

    So I would ask, are there any such proofs in the OT that would have general equity for our times? Or principles in the NT? For those of you who are able to conceal carry, what Biblical warrant (not confessional) would you give to shoot a shooter committing murder, or attempting to do so?

    I would assume an attacker openly breaking into my home – whether in daylight or at night – as likely being intent on killing, raping, and kidnapping as well as robbing, and to be stopped using whatever force necessary. Is this godly?

    As I noted earlier, I want to know in principle what is the right course of action so that I act by Biblical principle, and not ungodly passion.

    Can anyone supply Biblical warrant besides Exodus 22:2 for such defense?
  22. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I do want to warn you that you are in New York, not the South, so acting in self defense may well lead to prison - or at the very least, very high attorney fees. So in your case, at least, you would also need to weigh the moral imperatives of acting contrary to the express will of the magistrate.
  23. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks, Edward – what you say may well be correct, though we still have the legal right to self-defense here also, yet more stringent perhaps than where you live or elsewhere. But I want to understand on what Scriptural basis Texans or southerners acting in self-defense have to stand on. This is not a "baiting" question, but one to help me predetermine my own courses of action.

    A lot of folks living in less "politically correct" parts of the country are well-armed, and I want to know the basis of their warrant to defend their families and / or protect the innocent. Surely such an important matter is addressed in God's word, and I am looking for help in finding it.
  24. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Good point. Now of course one should do such before any self defense presents itself.
  25. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    When Jesus restrained Peter from further violence after cutting the guard's ear off, he said put the sword away, not get rid of it. He was rebuking Peter's timing and placement of violence and not it's overall legitimacy.

    Addendum: It look like Logan brought that up above.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  26. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior


    This is something I put some thought into a while back, and want to look at with all humility. I want to stand on Scripture and not some preconceived notion of "Americanism" or "Texanism" or whatever you want to call it ("where ah defend mah home with a shotgun and ain't nobody gonna tell me differnt.").

    What I think it comes down to is something of a view of natural law. Not natural man vs spiritual man, but things that are of good and necessary consequence, and I think in this case it would take a positive command of Scripture to negate defending one's self and family.

    For example, as far as I know, except in the case of Peter, we are never commanded to "eat". We are given specific allowances for what we can eat, and we are warned against specific things like eating blood and to excess (gluttony). Throughout its pages, Scripture assumes men will naturally eat and then gives limits. Actually, it takes a positive command to not eat such as fasting, but the expectation of normal is that we eat.

    Similarly the Scriptures assume self-defense throughout. The example of Abner comes to mind, when Asahel was pursuing him (the passage indicates to kill him). Abner warned him, Asahel didn't turn, and Abner defended himself and killed Asahel. My impression from reading Joab's revenge was that it was wrong, not only because it was treacherous, but because he had no cause to avenge his brother (David condemns Joab and commissions Solomon to bring justice upon him for what he did to Abner). Abner was defending himself and had no other choice (Trapp and Henry both say this was self-defense).

    Abraham also fought for Lot's life. David rescued his wives after they had been captured. The people in the tower of Shechem likewise defended themselves against Abimelech. There's a great example of defense in lawless times!

    It seems to me that the Bible assumes that the ordinary reaction to a man or his family being attacked, would be to defend. I am hard put to think of any biblical character who would have stood by and watched his family get slaughtered in order to hold the moral high ground. Since it is assumed by the biblical characters, it would seem to necessitate a positive command in order to negate defending one's self or family, which I don't think we have.

    Or think of it in the opposite: do we believe Scripture teaches us to stand by and watch while a robber breaks in and kills our family when it is in our power to save them? Is this loving our wife like our own body? Or as Christ loved the church? I don't think so. If Christ defends His church against her enemies, then ought not a husband his wife, both verbally and physically?

    Now, we are definitely warned against anger, or vengeance. No question there! But just as we are warned against gluttony yet still eat, I wouldn't see that as a case against defense, which is unmeditated but out of necessity.

    This is at least how I've looked at it.
  27. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior


    Baxter's "Directory" has a section on self-defense. He goes into great detail on how one should obey the law of the land but where it can be lawfully done it is one's duty to defend one's self and family. He references no Scripture though so I'm not sure how helpful it will be.

    This really seems to be a 20th/21st century quandary, unless you count the Anabaptists. Everyone throughout the ages would probably give us a strange look if they heard we were wrestling with whether to defend one's family or not.
  28. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks, Logan! What you say in your post 26 makes sense. I will ponder it further. When we live in an age that subjects every Biblical truth to minute scrutiny, and seeks to disassemble godly common sense with seemingly plausible scruples, it is then required of those who seek to live godly to consider various objections and give good opposing responses. If it comes to pass (I pray it never does) I am in the position to take a man's life to defend my family, I want to be absolutely certain I am in the right before God.

    I just sold my hard copy of Baxter's Directory (vol 4) for a pittance, but I found an online version here. Which of the chapters holds his thoughts on self-defense?
  29. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    In Christian Directory it is Chapter 10 of Part 4, Question 5 (bottom of page 788 and continuing onto 789).
  30. davdavis

    davdavis Puritan Board Freshman

    It's really disturbing to see Sider still being drawing a crowd. I attended Covenant College in my freshman college year 78-79, and it swept through the school like a plague. His view that God was a Socialist, is about as subjective as Rushdoony's view that God was a capitalist. It seems to me that the best refutation of Christians required to be Pacifist are, 1: Romans 13, where it is said that the magistrates are entrusted with the sword.
    the sword is violent. 2. When the soldiers came to John the Baptist, he did not tell them to cease being soldiers, just not to use the power of their position to mistreat people.( Luke 3:14) 3. The Centurion Cornelius is not rebuked by Peter for being a Centurion.(Acts 10:1-4) 4. Jesus told the disciples to carry swords. (Luke 22:36 ) 5. Paul's use of military language, e.g. Ephesians. Rather unusual if Christianity enjoined Pacifism.

    Apart from The scripture its fairly plain in Church history. from the earliest times, from before Christianity became a Licit religion, Christians were present in the Roman Legions. (a volunteer force). Reference a quote from the website, "the Ancient Near East and its Legacy "
    "Christian authors Tertullian and Apollinarius said that the Christians in the legion prayed and credited them with providing rain, adding that Marcus Aurelius thanked his Christian soldiers for their prayers. Pagan writer Cassius Dio credited an Egyptian magician named Arnuphis who “invoked by means of enchantments various deities and in particular Mercury.” The unknown author of the Historia Augusta credited the prayers of Marcus Aurelius himself, he did not note the receiving deity. The event is also depicted in a relief on a column commissioned by Marcus Aurelius in Rome, where the rain is seen coming in anthropomorphic form, with a rain god spreading his arms over the troops.[5]"[/B]{note the whole article is excellent by the way" While its possible
    the story is legend, it is widely attested and is certain evidence of Christian presence in the legions and the acceptance of them by the Church. The author goes on to show that at least 8 tombstone have been Found inscribed to Christian soldiers before Constantine, and that two early third century churches, had military ties. One at Megiddo was in a fortress of the 2nd Legion and contained the inscription, “The God-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial.”

    “Gaianus, also called Porphyrius, centurion, our brother, has made the pavement at his own expense as an act of liberality. Brutius carried out the work
    No doubt Sider, and his supporters will argue the sermon on the mount. This is absurd. If taken to apply to the Magistrate as to the individual there could be not magistrate because you could not use violence to apprehend, much less punish evildoers.

    David Davis
    PCA \
    Montgomery, Al
    blog:// {I left the "http" off because im not sure if direct linking is allowed}
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