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On one of the recent comment threads here on kindomready there has been a lot of discussion about the proper biblical view of war and whether or not a Christian should be involved in it in anyway.  Should Christians be strict pacifists to never bring violence against another person regardless of circumstances?  Or is war and violence sometimes necessary in order to protect ourselves from evil? Here on Veterans Day 2008, perhaps this is an apropos topic to discuss further in its own subject thread.

The following article is entitled “What does the Bible say about war?”  It is from the people at TruthOrTradtion.com who share a great number of the same beliefs of many of us here at kingdomready.  In fact, of the big three main belief areas (found in the “Resources” section here on the right-side of the page), they are pretty much identical.

I’m posting the first quarter of the article here, but since it is a little long please visit this link to read the other three quarters of it on their site – What does the Bible say about war? .

 

What does the Bible say about war?


FAQ: I know some Christians who say they are “pacifists,” and that war is always wrong. Some go so far as to say they would not defend themselves even if someone tried to kill them. One called me a “militant” Christian because I said I would. What does the Bible say about war?

While there are verses that some have interpreted in a pacifist way, we assert that the belief that a person should not defend himself, his family, his society, or his nation comes from a misinterpretation of the Bible. Even a cursory reading of Scripture will show that if one were to put a sub-title on Genesis 3:7 – Revelation 20:10, it would be “GOD AT WAR.” With whom is He at war? And what are they fighting about?

God is at war with the spirit being we know as the Devil, Satan, or Lucifer, who rebelled against Him, and then twisted the hearts of Adam and Eve to get them to disobey Him. Satan is the same one who has since wreaked havoc on mankind, stealing, killing, and destroying everything and everyone he can (John 10:10). As the antithesis of God, who is love, Satan is pure hate.

What God and the Devil are fighting over is people. Knowing that his doom is certain because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Devil’s goal is to hurt God as badly as he can. He does so by trying to keep people from hearing the truth of God’s Word about Jesus Christ and thus getting saved. If people get saved, he still does all he can to make their lives miserable and to kill them. This relentlessly cruel being, who disguises himself as an angel of light, is in reality a liar, a deceiver, a murderer, and the personification of evil. If you give him a millimeter, he will take a light year.

God and the Lord Jesus are the epitome of love, and they will one day bring peace on earth, but they know that the wicked stand in the way of peace, and must be dealt with. When it comes to the pure evil that Satan embodies, the only way to have peace is by war, including eventually destroying him and all his allies. In the battle between good and evil, on the side of good there is God and his armies, both angels and human. On the side of evil is the Devil, his demons, and the people who knowingly or unknowingly side with him. Although it will not always be this way, the background of the spiritual and physical universe we are living in today is conflict. That is why the Bible says that God is a warrior. “The LORD is a man of war” (Exod. 15:3, KJV).

If the pacifist position were correct, it would seem logical that throughout history God would either prevent war, or at least not take sides in human conflicts, but that is not the case. God is certainly no pacifist, and the acts of our warrior-God fighting on behalf of His people, often via his angels, are seen all through the Bible. Some pertinent examples are: God removed the wheels of Egypt’s chariots as they pursued Israel, and drowned them in the sea (Ex. 14:25, 28); He threw hailstones down on the Canaanite army (Josh. 10:11); He rained down fire from heaven and burned up the enemy soldiers who came to get Elijah (2 King 1:9-15); He killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35); He blinded the false prophet Bar-Jesus, who stood against the teaching of Paul (Acts 13:9-11). In the future, He will throw huge hailstones, weighing about 100 pounds each, upon his enemies (Rev. 16:21).

 

Read the entire paper here.

37 Responses to “What does the Bible say about WAR?”

  1. on 11 Nov 2008 at 3:14 pmSean

    Ron,

    May I say a few words? I speak for myself, not for anyone else, and there are a great number of people that think differently than me, but I really think we may have misinterpreted the Biblical view of War.

    Granted, God is authorized and able to use violence as he pours out his wrath in acts of judgments, can we dare call ourselves “Christians” and yet marginalize, reduce, and ignore the direct instruction of the one we call “lord?” In OT times there was plenty of God-authorized violence and war. This was when God had a chosen nation, a holy nation whose wars were “holy wars.” But, once Jesus came this changed. And his followers quickly became an international family occupying many lands.

    It is our high calling as Christians to embody the kingdom as we preach it to people. In the kingdom there is no war, all the tanks have been retrofitted to be tractors, the nations are at peace with each other, and no one studies war anymore (Isaiah 2). This is God’s dream for the world, his vision for humanity and we are told to seek this first and this kind of righteousness.

    Jesus said, “you heard it was said _______, but I say unto you _____” quite a few times in the Sermon on the Mount. In anticipation of his death/resurrection/ascension he gave instruction for this rag-tag group of disciples to be the new Israel to show the world a foretaste of the future. Jesus’ instruction is not vague. His words are clear “love your enemies.”

    Furthermore, there are plenty of other verses in the NT that demonstrate the Christian view of peace (non-violence). I will quote a few of these sections just to make it clear.

    Matthew 5.5
    Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

    Matthew 5.9
    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

    Matthew 5.38-42
    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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

    Matthew 5.43-48
    You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Romans 12.17-21
    Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath {of God,} for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    1 Peter 3.8-17
    8 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. 9 Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, 11 must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.” 13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

    I know that Christianity has for 17 centuries (since Constantine) melded the cross and the sword in such a way that people actually believe that it is one’s Christian duty to slay the enemies of the country in which he sojourns. But, if you look at the early church history in the second, third, and even fourth centuries you will discover a church that is united in its stand against violence. Here is one of these early Christian quotes:

    Justin Marytr: a.d.160
    “We who formerly murdered one another now refrain from making war even upon our enemies.”

    “We used to be filled with war, mutual slaughter, and every kind of wickedness. However, now all of us have, throughout the whole earth, changed our warlike weapons. We have changed our swords into plowshares, and our spears into farming implements.”

    Tertullian: a.d. 197
    “Now inquiry is made about the point whether a believer may enter into military service. The question is also asked whether those in the military may be admitted into the faith – even the rank and file (or any inferior grade), who are not required to take part in sacrifices or capital punishments…A man cannot give his allegiance to two masters – God and Caesar…How will a Christian man participate in war? In fact, how will he serve even in peace without a sword? For the Lord has taken the sword away. It is also true that soldiers came to John [the Baptist] and received the instructions for their conduct. It is also true that a centurion believed. Nevertheless, the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

    Hippolytus: a.d. 200
    “A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.”

    (there are many more quotes…but these should suffice to demonstrate the early Christian attitude towards war).

    Sorry to be so long here, but I disagree with TruthorTradition’s stance above and though I could be wrong here, I think we need to look at violence a new way (not the way our countries tell us to look at it). When it comes to the thorny question of someone attacking our family, of course, no one is advocating passiveness (pacifism has nothing to do with passiveness). As the resurrection people we should be the first to get involved, self-sacrifice, trust in God, and walk by the Spirit to protect our families. Too often these hypotheticals assume atheism and in so doing deny that God has the power to save his people when they trust in him (especially in the scary situations of life).

  2. on 11 Nov 2008 at 3:40 pmJoseph

    Sean,

    Why can’t we do both? As in, Trust in God’s spirit and defend ourselves when the time comes.

  3. on 11 Nov 2008 at 3:51 pmSean

    Joseph,

    I agree we should do both. I’m just not convinced that defending should be done using violence. We are not to return evil for evil. We are to leave vengeance in God’s hands. I say we confront evil with the gospel, with the power of resurrection, in the strength of the holy spirit…and if we perish, we perish, but at least the enemy gets a taste of the kingdom in the meantime. (And that love may penetrate his heart and result with God’s help in his repentance and salvation).

  4. on 11 Nov 2008 at 4:32 pmRon S.

    Sean,

    Thanks for your comments!

    First I will say that I agree AND disagree. I guess I would say that I agree that we should do all that his humanly possible to promote peace – up to the point that someone is threatening to physically harm us or our loved ones. At that point I patently disagree with blind pacifism and I will resort to physical violence if that is absolutely necessary. And I believe that the whole of scripture, along with our God-given common sense, promotes this view.

    But for now with I’d like to see where you stand personally as I’m a little confused by some of your statements. In Post #1 you seem to advocate not being fully passive with your comment “When it comes to the thorny question of someone attacking our family, of course, no one is advocating passiveness (pacifism has nothing to do with passiveness).”

    But just now in your reply to Joseph you say: “I’m just not convinced that defending should be done using violence.” and “I say we confront evil with the gospel, with the power of resurrection, in the strength of the holy spirit…and if we perish, we perish, but at least the enemy gets a taste of the kingdom in the meantime.”

    So on the “thorny” hypothetical of men breaking into your home to do violence to you and your wife and children, do you preach the gospel only to them and if they harm and kill you all then you “perish” – so be it, that is God’s will?? And yes I know like JohnE has mentioned the option of calling the police and letting “Ceasar’s” authorities come and do the heavy lifting is the proper response (both Biblical and Civil). But what if that is not possible or the response time won’t be fast enough?

    And do you believe that the famous quote by Edmund Burke – “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing“, has no backing from God?

    Thanks,

    Ron S.

  5. on 11 Nov 2008 at 4:36 pmDustin

    I think before we ask the question “What does the Bible say about War?” we need to first ask a related question:

    What does the Bible mean when it calls Christians aliens and strangers, seeking a country of their own?

    Dustin

  6. on 11 Nov 2008 at 4:54 pmStephanie

    Hi Guys,

    Don’t worry, I’m staying out of this one – but I have to say I am enjoying the read.

  7. on 11 Nov 2008 at 6:26 pmRon S.

    FYI:

    For anyone interested in this subject – and to add to the discussion, here are two other excellent articles (from different sources) that closely mirror the one I originally posted from TruthorTradition.com

    This first one is from another like-minded Biblical Unitarian who has written many excellent articles (some of which are featured here on kingdomready under the “Kingdom of God” online articles section). His name is Juan Baixeras and his site is “Jesus the Messiah and His Kingdom“.

    Article: “Is War or the Use of Force Ever Justified by God?

    And this second one is from a more mainstream site called “ChristianAnswers.net“. But still it has many good points on the subject.

    Article: “What is the Christian perspective on war?

    Enjoy! 🙂

    Ron S.

  8. on 11 Nov 2008 at 6:36 pmJohnO

    I think Sean has brought up a number of excellent points. So often our “fundamentalist” approach of reading Scripture in a, supposed, vaccuum, is dead wrong. First, it isn’t a vaccuum because we import all of our own experiences and presuppositions. Second, we have to take into account history, both the historical circumstances and culture of the text we are reading – and the historical certainties about Church practice closest to the time of Jesus.

    The fact that the church was unanimous (unlike nearly every other issue faced then) on this issue of refusing to use a sword speaks strongly.

    Second, the fact that violent messianic uprisings were normal during the second temple period is fairly plain. The fact that Jesus is pictured as consciously avoiding that path at all costs (especially note: Peter in Gethsemane) speaks incredibly strongly.

    Third, the sayings of Jesus correspond perfectly with these actions – like not repaying evil for evil.

    Fourth the rhetoric of the apostles during times of persecution leans strongly on emulating Jesus’ actions in going to the cross and not fighting back.

    Combining all of these points argues both indirectly, and directly against the emulation of David or other Israelite figures of the Old Testament, which is the only argument that can even attempt to use the Scriptures in its defense. In my view, there is no ground to stand on regarding a Christian using deadly force.

  9. on 11 Nov 2008 at 10:59 pmSean

    Ron,

    To add some more resources to read on this subject, may I submit Anthony Buzzard’s paper called, Towards the Cessation of Church Suicide as well as Frank Zabelka’s statement about how he repented after blessing the pilots who dropped the atomic bombs in Japan called Blessing the Bombs and lastly this brief but remarkably potent satire written by Mark Twain The War Prayer. But then again, there is nothing like direct discourse…

    First I will say that I agree AND disagree. I guess I would say that I agree that we should do all that his humanly possible to promote peace – up to the point that someone is threatening to physically harm us or our loved ones. At that point I patently disagree with blind pacifism and I will resort to physical violence if that is absolutely necessary. And I believe that the whole of scripture, along with our God-given common sense, promotes this view.

    What I hear you saying is that you are willing to follow Jesus’ command to love your enemy if things are not too scary, but once physical harm is a possibility you would willingly disobey him. (I’m not trying to be obtuse here, I’m just trying to clarify. I respect you as a brother and I value your opinion.) Secondly, I think we may have exposed a certain commitment that you (and most people) have to violence.

    At the most foundational level your faith commitment is to violence over love as being more powerful. This is perfectly understandable and I believed this way for most of my life as well. It’s because we see the world around us, how kingdoms “do” power, how Satan’s world runs, and so our impression is to believe that love is a weak force in comparison to brute hatred, violence, guns, bombs, and so on. Yet, the good news is that this world is a mirage.

    These four concepts helped me to sober up from the noxious tonic the world had served me:
    (1) Jesus successfully won the greatest victory of all time by not using violence when intense, satanic, heinous violence was done to him. By absorbing all of the evil and yet still expressing love (Father forgive them…) Jesus defeated evil on its own grounds and opened up a new way (on par with the first Adamn, Jesus began a new creation–a new way to be human).
    (2) The reason why love is more powerful than violence is because God endorses love. We know from the gospel that God will bring his kingdom and then love will have the eternal victory. So, God who “is” love, endorses love, and will bring about eternal love.
    (3) In Jesus God has triumphed over death through resurrection. The power of death has been broken and we are the resurrection people–those who are no longer slaves to sin and death. The greatest enemy of us mortal creatures has been conquered by our lord and savior.
    (4) Love has within it a redemptive power. The actions Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount have an incredibly subversive power to deconstruct the enemy’s mentality and transform him (if he allows it) into a friend. Thus, I’m not trying to disarm you–I’m not taking your sword away–and giving you nothing with which to defend yourself. Far from it! I am asking you to pick up the sword of the spirit which is vastly more powerful than any dinky braveheart sword. When we love the unlovable, reach out to the wicked, and self-sacrificially perform radical acts of outrageous cross-shaped love to those who desire our harm, we in the power of the spirit disarm them and open up a whole host of new options for the tired old you-kill-me-or-I-kill-you scenario. For two real life examples from the 20th century consider the independence of India from England under Ghandi and the civil rights movement under MLK.

    If I use violence back I have inherently conceded that there is nothing wrong with humans using violence against other humans. I have conceded that violence is a valid means by which to attain the victory. We become like them when we resort to their means and at that moment our unique kingdom testimony is compromised. We cease to be beautiful and the bride of Christ splatters blood on her white dress.

    But for now with I’d like to see where you stand personally as I’m a little confused by some of your statements. In Post #1 you seem to advocate not being fully passive with your comment “When it comes to the thorny question of someone attacking our family, of course, no one is advocating passiveness (pacifism has nothing to do with passiveness).”

    But just now in your reply to Joseph you say: “I’m just not convinced that defending should be done using violence.” and “I say we confront evil with the gospel, with the power of resurrection, in the strength of the holy spirit…and if we perish, we perish, but at least the enemy gets a taste of the kingdom in the meantime.”

    So on the “thorny” hypothetical of men breaking into your home to do violence to you and your wife and children, do you preach the gospel only to them and if they harm and kill you all then you “perish” – so be it, that is God’s will?? And yes I know like JohnE has mentioned the option of calling the police and letting “Ceasar’s” authorities come and do the heavy lifting is the proper response (both Biblical and Civil). But what if that is not possible or the response time won’t be fast enough?

    There are two types (to oversimplify for a moment) of pacifism. (1) passive (2) confrontational. Passive pacifists (like the Amish) would willingly allow and intruder to harm, rape, and murder his family without putting up a fight. The latter position: confrontational pacifism is the concept that as God’s people we can confront evil in non-violent ways, speak truth to power, and self-sacrificially get involved to save our families. This second position is what I believe in. It is a far cry from the typical “passifism” dismissed by pro-violence advocates.

    So on to the answer of the hypothetical. My first point is to break our commitment to violence on the one side and cowardice on the other. We should trust in God to help us in our moment of need. We should protect our family and do everything we can to demonstrate self-sacrificial love towards our enemy. We should “walk by the spirit” by allowing God to give us the wisdom needed for that moment. There are many stories of times when someone spoke a word or sang a song that completely disarmed the would be attacker and resulted in an opportunity to share the gospel. I guess I don’t have a worked out answer as to what exactly I would do, other than to say I want to be free to trust in God in that scary situation. I really don’t know what that would look like and I suspect it would be different in each circumstance…but without a doubt I would do something and with my last breath I would protect my family from this intruder.

    And do you believe that the famous quote by Edmund Burke – “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing“, has no backing from God?

    I think that Edmund Burke’s quip leaves much to be desired. It assumes that God is not providentially involved with the workings of history (i.e., that God may have a purpose for the “bad guys” to win sometimes, cf. Assyria, Babylon, Persia). It assumes that the only type of doing something is to use violence in return. But more than anything it assumes that Christians should be involved in their country’s military. But this is a major problem. For if Christians are found on both sides of the war (like the Civil War, and many, many others) then we have brothers and sisters killing each other. The grotesque image that always sends a shiver down my spine is that of the pure and holy bride of Christ slitting her own throat. Sure, countries need to use violence to protect themselves, but is it the Christian’s duty to entangle himself in the worldly affairs of this magnitude? Like I said before, the early Christian testimony from Jesus through to the 4th century is solidly anti-war.

    sorry to be soooo long winded, but I have thought about this matters a good deal.

  10. on 12 Nov 2008 at 1:25 amJoseph

    Sean,

    I believe that we need to define in context what love our enemies entitles. I don’t believe Christ ever defined in enough detail for this to mean let our enemies kill us, or don’t defend ourselves in a dire situation.

    Why would Christ on one had tell us to love our enemies, then on the other hand God would tell him to decimate his enemies? Why would Christ tell his apostles to take up swords? There seems to be much contradiction within Christ’s teachings, or much change in context.

    Ron put it in a understandable way when calling it “blind Pacifism.” The reason it is blind is because Christ never defined in a rulebook the details and extent in which we should allow persecution to overcome us. Even from our childhood we are programed to defend ourselves from an attacker. Don’t tell me that any one of you would not have subdued a attacker if at all possible when you were a child, it is our will to live on. So why would a Pacifist not protect a child against an “enemy” if given the opportunity?

    I really think that we need to define what Christ meant by “enemy”, and what level of “persecution” must we endure. I wish that Christ would have gone into more detail on this issue.

  11. on 12 Nov 2008 at 1:44 amJoseph

    For those who have never been close to death by being a victim to evil violence, I believe that Pacifism would be more reachable.

    I had a awful experience about 5 years ago. I was out downtown one night at a pub with some friends. Just as we were leaving I saw about 5 guys standing around this one man beating him up. No one would rush to help this man out so I called the cops and went to break up the situation before anyone got killed. I was able to get the attackers attention away from the man and he fled. Little did I know that there were more of these mobsters around, and a few of them knocked me unconscious from behind. When I came to, the only thing that was keeping me alive was pure adrenaline. I went to the emergency room and spent the night getting treatment. I suffered from a severe concussion and had broken some bones in my face, chipped some teeth, and lost most the feeling in the right side of my face. Apparently my face was being stomped while I was knocked out. I had to get facial surgery in a attack that should have killed me. I asked myself, “why didn’t anyone that was around try and help me?” But then I realized, it wasn’t about me, it was about the man I helped and the courage and strength that God had given me from enduring this violent crime.

    The point is if I hadn’t stepped in, what if the man that was being attacked first would have been killed? What if he gets the opportunity to become a believer and changes the lives of many others. I couldn’t just stand around and watch this evil aggression take this man. What would you have done as a Pacifist? Remember, there is not time for cops.

  12. on 12 Nov 2008 at 8:13 amSean

    Joseph,

    Thank you for sharing this story. This is exactly the sort of thing a follower of Jesus should do. Remember, you have to break the old way of thinking about the word “pacifism.” It has NOTHING to do with being passive! That is why I prefer to say I believe in loving my enemies. Jesus didn’t say “don’t go near a violent situation”…he said “love your enemies!” There is a huge difference and I think what you did in this situation was the right thing to do. You self-sacrificially risked your own life for the sake of someone that was helpless.

    Now to your comments from #10. I don’t think calling people who want to follow Jesus all the way to the point of loving their enemies “blind pacifism” is appropriate or helpful. I could call others people who are “blindly violent” when it gets tough, but that wouldn’t be helpful to the discussion. My whole point is we need to take the blinders off. Stop thinking that there are only two options: fight or flight. The Bible is filled with God doing incredible things with people who are not qualified in the eyes of the world. When Moses is backed up to the Red Sea, God decides to split it. Was anyone thinking that would happen? No! Seas don’t split! But that is the kind of God we serve. So, what I’m saying is that we need to break our faith commitment to violence and cowardice so that God can speak to us in our moment of need. If we have already predetermined a violent course of action (perhaps by keeping a handgun under the pillow) then that short circuits God from working redemption through us for our attacker. I know this stuff sounds crazy, but just look at Jesus’ life. He trusted in God and got into some hairy situations but God delivered him time and again. Even so, there are sometimes when God does not deliver (like James or Stephen). Sometimes God privileges us as followers of Jesus to be martyred for the stand we take. But, if you have read the stories of martyrs in the 2nd – 4th centuries you will know that more people came to faith through their fearless serenity in the midst of martyrdom that the word “witness” and “martyr” came to be the same and thus “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.”

    Why would Christ on one had tell us to love our enemies, then on the other hand God would tell him to decimate his enemies?

    When Jesus returns he will carry out the righteous judgment and wrath of God on the enemies of God. Of course, God always reserves the right to carry out his judgment. But we have been given a command…to love our enemies. If we brush this command aside because we don’t have the faith that God will take care of us when we do this, then we need to read more the biblical narratives to build our faith. Our command is clear. The history of the church is clear. The only question is, “will you be willing to put down your sword?”

    Why would Christ tell his apostles to take up swords?

    So that the Scripture would be fulfilled that he was numbered with the transgressors. (that’s the next verse!) Read Ben Witherington’s insightful commentary on this here.

    There seems to be much contradiction within Christ’s teachings, or much change in context.

    I don’t see the contradiction. But, as far as historical context goes it may be helpful for you to know that 1st century Jews living in the Roman Empire were exempt from military duty (they wouldn’t fight on Saturday or sacrifice to Caesar before battle). I’ll leave you with a very clear passage from Romans.

    Romans 12:14 – 21
    14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (capitalized letters are quotations from OT)

  13. on 12 Nov 2008 at 11:03 amStephanie

    My research on Mark Twain shows that he believed the Bible to be a “work of fiction”.

    Just surprised he is given any credit in this group- his beliefs are questionable.

  14. on 12 Nov 2008 at 11:18 amSean

    Stephanie,

    Did you get a chance to read his satire?

  15. on 12 Nov 2008 at 12:40 pmFrank D

    Joseph, Thank you for sharing. I thank God for your bravery and health.

    We all can find examples in history that support or contradict our theories. As a religion, Christianity has both martyrs and murderers. I am continuing to read the references above, so don’t have a whole lot to add yet.

    But, I am curious, do you understand what a military with no brothers and sisters in Christ would look like? Look at countries like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Now, that is not meant to be a justification for war, but we do live in an evil, corrupt world. Is there (in the pacifist area) any just war? Yes, there are many unjust wars and maybe the war in Iraq is what makes this such a heated issues lately. But, without a military and without Christian leaders like George Washington, our country would not exist.

    I guess if lift unchecked, it would lead to Christ’s return sooner than later.

  16. on 12 Nov 2008 at 2:36 pmJohnO

    Stephanie,

    People’s ideas always need to be grappled with. We can’t just say attack anyone ad homenum and say “that is why I don’t have to listen to their ideas”. It isn’t a “following” Mark Twain, it’s a Mark Twain made a good argument, and I happen to agree with it. Doesn’t matter if he thought the Scriptures were a fiction. Bultmann thought Scriptures were a fiction as well.

  17. on 12 Nov 2008 at 3:48 pmFrank D

    Sir Anthony’s article addresses my question about ‘just wars’. It gives me something to consider.

  18. on 12 Nov 2008 at 4:35 pmFrank D

    Sir Anthony’s article is interesting.

    I will agree that one purpose of a Department of Defense is to make the prospect of war as distasteful as possible to any would be aggressor. And then they bluff or call a bluff, a critical dilemma to say the least.

    Hypothetical question: The United States adopts a pacifistic military policy. An impending attack on the country is discovered. Would you have faith to believe God will supernaturally intercede? Would you let the invading country take over and surrender this way of life as “God’s will”?

    Yes, we can go back and forth with extreme examples anywhere in the spectrum. Juan’s article covers many such scenarios, some that address a difference between open agression and self defense. Please believe me when I say I ask these questions for my own edification. I have seen people in my line of work forever changed by war. ( I do not, however, struggle with the issue of self defense.)

  19. on 12 Nov 2008 at 6:21 pmRon S.

    Sean,

    Thanks again for another one of your well reasoned replies. I certainly respect your opinion and your take on Scripture as well. And I will openly say that I am absolutely willing to listen to the intelligent views of people like yourself and others (Anthony Buzzard, etc.). I consider my self always open to correction and am willing to change my views where I may be wrong. In fact, I usually include in my prayers for God to open my eyes to any of my current beliefs where I may be wrong. I only want to know the truth of His word and to understand things as they actually are, not how I currently believe them to be. I don’t want to be right for my sake – only HIS.

    So I think I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that you are actually professing “non-violence” and not true “pacifism”. I know that there is a difference between the two. Being non-violent means one can be aggressive and forceful in some instances, but physical violence against another person is not used. Pacifism seems to lack that element of aggression. Is that how you see it? And would you add anything regarding their differences?

    I want to respond in detail to some of your other comments and to reply more in-depth to the subject at hand. But I need some more time to think things over and to also read Anthony’s paper. I read both Mark Twain’s satire and the “Blessing of the Bombs” piece and found them to be well done with very thought-provoking arguments against war. And many of those arguments I would agree with – as I would think most sane people with some inkling of the horrors of war would as well.

    I do have a couple of questions I want to pose to you in the meantime.

    1. Do you believe that Christians should never fight in a war – even in clear instances of unjust aggression such as Nazi Germany’s in WWII?

    2. Do you believe that non-violence should extend to civil government – i.e. the police/law enforcement? And if so, what is a government whose members are primarily Christians to do then?

    Maybe late tonight or tomorrow I can reply with more . Thanks again.

    Ron S.

  20. on 12 Nov 2008 at 10:00 pmStephanie

    Sean:

    Yes, I read Mark Twain’s War and Prayer. He’s a very talented writer. Talented people are very good at arousing emotions to make their arguments. I found it manipulative.

    John O:
    After dealing with “intellectuals” in College and grad school, (especially professors) I’ve become weary of considering all opinions of persons who don’t esteem the Word of God. I think there is an “intellectual” devil spirit we have to beware of.
    So – for me personally, I’m selective.

    1Corinthians 3:19

    For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.

  21. on 12 Nov 2008 at 10:27 pmSean

    Hypothetical question: The United States adopts a pacifistic military policy. An impending attack on the country is discovered. Would you have faith to believe God will supernaturally intercede? Would you let the invading country take over and surrender this way of life as “God’s will”?

    I honestly don’t believe your hypothetical will ever happen. Jesus said the gate is narrow which leads to life whereas the way to destruction is wide with the majority finding that path to be there’s. Furthermore, America’s military would never adopt a policy of enemy love. I don’t think we need to worry about this possibility.

  22. on 12 Nov 2008 at 10:35 pmJohnE

    I enjoyed Anthony Buzzard’s article. Well written and well documented. But as Frank noticed, he doesn’t seem to touch on wars where the other party is non-Christian.

    Frank,

    Hypothetical question: The United States adopts a pacifistic military policy. An impending attack on the country is discovered.

    I can already see some difficulties here. Germany deceived its citizens when it said Poland attacked them (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleiwitz_incident). Other governments deceived their citizens in other ways (I don’t want to start a discussion on Iraq’s WMD here).

    Even if we would accept the “just war” theory, the question is, can we, ordinary citizens, asses without a doubt, that this is a “just war”, where we have to attack in order to survive? What do we do? Plant our own men in the CIA to catch any attempt to deceit? Isn’t it ridiculous? Is it not a fact that we can be deceived by our governments into killing total strangers from other nations, pagans or Christians? And whose fault will it be that we have been deceived? Was it Eve’s fault that she has been deceived?

    Would you have faith to believe God will supernaturally intercede?

    Maybe having faith here isn’t even necessary. Didn’t God punish Israel so many times by bringing foreign nations against them, ultimately leaving their country unpopulated? When it comes to whole countries, faith that God will protect that country from destruction is no longer necessary. God does not have to protect nations, as He has only one nation: the “holy nation, a people for [His] own possession” (1 Pe 2:9), a nation of Gentiles and Jews which themselves are secular citizens of different nations (Acts 15:14).

    Yes, I would have faith that he can save me and my family. So what is a Christian to do? I believe that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” – Rom 15:4

    Would you let the invading country take over and surrender this way of life as “God’s will”?

    The disciples were going to find themselves in the very situation you presented above. What does the Scripture write “in earlier times for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”?

    “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city”

    Would you have stayed and fight against the pagans who were trying to mount an “impending attack”? Did the disciples “surrender this way of life as ‘God’s will'”?. Yes, you will probably say that they knew it was God’s will for Jerusalem to fall, and it was indeed. But how do we know it is not God’s will for any country to fall when it falls? Couldn’t it be His will?

    These questions reveal I think a serious problem: a Christian cannot discern God’s will in these cases, whether He wills for a territory/country to fall or not. And it doesn’t really matter. God doesn’t even ask Christians to repel the foreign military forces occupying their country. The Thessalonians were not called to arms by Paul because the Roman Empire occupied their country and nation.

    How could he? It just struck me that when he said that our battle is not against humans, the context was the human slave/master relationship:

    Ephesians 6:5-13 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; […] And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against […] the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

    Paul was not a social revolutionary. Were the slaves thinking of revolting against their masters (Spartacus comes to mind)? Paul warns them (and their masters who would have also used weapons to quell the revolt) that our battle is not against humans, but against the devil and his associates.

    (as a side note, the word used by Paul here – the only instance in NT – translated by NAS as “struggle”, is πάλη, which according to BDAG 5505 means also “fight”, “battle”).

    Can we honestly agree with Paul that our battle is not against humans, when we battle in wars against humans, and kill them?

  23. on 12 Nov 2008 at 10:55 pmSean

    Ron,

    Thanks again for another one of your well reasoned replies. I certainly respect your opinion and your take on Scripture as well. And I will openly say that I am absolutely willing to listen to the intelligent views of people like yourself and others (Anthony Buzzard, etc.). I consider my self always open to correction and am willing to change my views where I may be wrong. In fact, I usually include in my prayers for God to open my eyes to any of my current beliefs where I may be wrong. I only want to know the truth of His word and to understand things as they actually are, not how I currently believe them to be. I don’t want to be right for my sake – only HIS.

    Amen brother. This is exactly my belief as well. We are constantly on the quest to seek truth. This is not an easy process and I have changed my beliefs many times as God has led me closer and closer to him. May God continue to lead both of us. (And I am also willing to be proved wrong on this subject).

    So I think I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that you are actually professing “non-violence” and not true “pacifism”. I know that there is a difference between the two. Being non-violent means one can be aggressive and forceful in some instances, but physical violence against another person is not used. Pacifism seems to lack that element of aggression. Is that how you see it? And would you add anything regarding their differences?

    First off, let me say that my heart’s desire is to follow Jesus as closely as possible. I want to take his commands seriously and even if it causes me difficulty I want to follow him. Jesus never said, “be a pacifist”…he never said, “don’t use violence”…he never said “run away from evil”…no! he said, “love your enemies”! This statement of his is remarkably affirmative. He is not telling us to stop hating them. He is telling us to love them. And then, like all men of integrity, he lived out his own message by loving his own enemies. When they had done their worst, stripped him naked, shredded his back, mocked him, spit upon him, ripped out the hair of his beard, and scoffed at him on the cross as a false messiah….even then, especially then, he said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. That’s Jesus. So my question is not, “should I be a pacifist?” but, “does the word pacifist describe what Jesus calls me to be?” For a definition of the word “pacifist” (which I have said repeatedly has NOTHING to do with being “passive”–they just happen to sound alike) consider this one from m-w.com:

    from Merriam Webster
    opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes ; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds

    Thus, I’m willing to refer to myself as a pacifist, but usually there is a lot of negative baggage that goes along with that label, so I prefer to say I believe in enemy love or something like that. At the end of the day, I want to obey my lord. I used to argue against the pacifist arguments until it became clear to me that I was really trying to find a way out of obeying Jesus. (I’m not implying that this is the case with you…I’m just speaking from my own experience).

    1. Do you believe that Christians should never fight in a war – even in clear instances of unjust aggression such as Nazi Germany’s in WWII?

    I believe Christians should always be obedient to Jesus and follow his example in every situation. There is a time for war and there is a time for peace. The time for war was when God had a nation, Israel, which obviously needed warriors to fight for it. Now Jesus has come, the holy spirit has been poured out, a resurrection has erupted onto the human scene, and an innocent man was crucified. Through the “Jesus event” the world is no longer the same. He has brought everything up to a much higher standard and are calling is to embody the kingdom to this present evil age (even as we preach the gospel of the kingdom). In the kingdom there are no wars, there is only peace. So we are already at peace with our fellow man. There will be a time for war once more when Jesus comes to execute the wrath of the Almighty but I’m not sure that the saints are called to participate in that. But, as I said before, my intention is to obey Jesus. If he says pick up a sword and let out the braveheart roar then that’s what I’ll do. But for now his commands in the Sermon on the Mount stand and the time is for the Christians to put down the carnal sword and pick up the sword of the spirit and the shield of faith. That takes guts. That takes serious trust and God help us.

    2. Do you believe that non-violence should extend to civil government – i.e. the police/law enforcement? And if so, what is a government whose members are primarily Christians to do then?

    No. Government has their own role to play (Rom 13). Christians are called to separate from the world, to live as strangers and pilgrims, to share the good news with the world. Our time for running the show will come, but not until Jesus comes and then we won’t have to guess which decisions are right.

    grace & peace, brother

  24. on 12 Nov 2008 at 10:58 pmSean

    Sorry to be posting so much, but this topic gets me excited. Here is an astounding quote by Hermann Goering, one of the highest-ranking Nazis who survived to be captured and put on trial. What follows is an actual transcript of a conversation between Goering and Gustave Gilbert in private while he was in prison.

    We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

    “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

    “There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

    “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

    — April 18, 1946 before he was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials. (Gilbert, G.M. Nuremberg Diary, 1947, pages 278-279)

  25. on 13 Nov 2008 at 1:59 amJoseph

    Frank,

    Thanks for the encouragement, as you most likely know, getting involved isn’t always as easy as it may sound.

    Sean,

    Thanks for the kind words. I think that we are agreeing more than disagreeing. Our differences may only be within the details. For one, we both are open to learning the truth, if it may be.

    I think that we need to realize here that Christ wasn’t establishing any “Law” during the sermon on the Mount. Obviously, Christ told us that he would not change one thing in the Law. So, we need to consider the context in what Christ meant by turn the other cheek and love our enemies in light of the Law in existence that Christ would not change.

    I have always leaned toward, when in doubt, listen to the word of God that Christ studied, the Tanach.

  26. on 13 Nov 2008 at 9:06 amStephanie

    Ok,

    so now I should read the words of one with the spirit of an Anti-Christ, a high ranking Nazi, about how to “manipulate” people

    (#24Sean)

    and those words are used to make an argument of your own.

    It’s Double Manipulation.

    I don’t think that is very “discerning”. and goes a little too far for me.

    1Corinthians 3:19
    For as it is written, He catches the wise in their own craftiness.

  27. on 13 Nov 2008 at 9:59 amFrank D

    Thanks, JohnE. I will consider your response carefully. I was creating the most extreme example imaginable. Unfortunately, I think we all agree there will come a day when the whole world will be decieved. Yes, even if possible, some believers. In our modern age, it comes down to who manipulates information. That has, IMHO, become easier.

  28. on 13 Nov 2008 at 11:45 amTheresa

    Thank you all for your input. It is very appreciated that all contributors to this topic are concerned with the words and intent of the Christ and the One Who sent him. Jesus certainly did have the Old Testament words in his mind as well as bringing us a New Covenant.

    Ezra came to mind in going over some of these sections. Not so much of War which seems to be the main topic, but more personal to family or families as a number of families were travelling back to Jerusalem with Ezra.

    Ezra 8:21-23 (NCV) There by the Ahava Canal, I announced we would all fast and deny ourselves before our God. We would ask God for a safe trip for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road. We had said to the king, “Our God helps everyone who obeys him, but he is very angry with all who reject him.” So we fasted and prayed to our God about our trip, and he answered our prayers.

    Ezra 8:31 (NCV) On the twelfth day of the first month we left the Ahava Canal and started toward Jerusalem. Our God helped us and protected us from enemies and robbers along the way.

    I know of accounts were people have died in standing for the Truth and others live. The Roman army did help Paul in transporting him. But, this account is a great starting point of trusting God for protection.

    I look forward to reading through some of the extra information inserted to help in this topic and I pray for myself and for all of you for God’s wisdom and instruction as this is a topic that will continue on until the Prince of Peace rules the earth and evil will be squished like grapes.

  29. on 19 Nov 2008 at 10:12 pmMark C.

    Sean,

    There will be a time for war once more when Jesus comes to execute the wrath of the Almighty but I’m not sure that the saints are called to participate in that.

    I’ve heard a few others make mention of this too, but haven’t heard any details. Could you provide some resources that examine this question?

  30. on 19 Nov 2008 at 10:21 pmSean

    Mainly Psalm 110 is the text I had in mind which seems to be the OT version of Revelation 19. I’m up in the air on this one.

  31. on 21 Nov 2008 at 1:43 pmMark C.

    Sean,

    Do you know of any theological writers that have considered this question?

  32. on 21 Nov 2008 at 2:03 pmSean

    I bet John Howard Yoder has considered it.

  33. on 23 Nov 2008 at 4:55 amRon S.

    Sean,

    Sorry I’ve taken extra time to get back to this, but I wanted to be sure to ponder over all the views on this issue, reflect upon them, pray about them, and consider everything in a “big picture” way. As I mentioned, I do respect your views (and many of our like-minded brothers). This will probably be even longer than the replies you sent me, so I’ll ask for your (and any other reader’s) patience ahead of time. This topic gets me enthralled as well and I believe it is an important one (just not quite up there with the big doctrinal ones (i.e. The Trinity, Conditional Immortality, The Coming Kingdom of God on earth, no personal pre-existence of Jesus, etc.).

    So after much contemplation, I have to say I remain convinced in my original position. I still firmly believe that the bible does not teach pacifism – even Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” teachings. In fact, I am inclined to say that pacifism when taken to its logical extreme is dangerously wrong. I know it stems from the best of intentions. But our brothers of the Jehovah Witness persuasion have the best of intentions (to follow God’s instructions fully) – yet their beliefs on blood can lead to the senseless death of themselves and their loved ones. This too can be the result of a wrong belief that Jesus instructs us to be pacifists if it leads us to not defend ourselves, our families, and our neighbors with force if needed – especially when force becomes the only option.

    You said to me:

    “What I hear you saying is that you are willing to follow Jesus’ command to love your enemy if things are not too scary, but once physical harm is a possibility you would willingly disobey him.”

    No, and this is where we simply disagree. I do not believe I’m disobeying Jesus. That is because I do not see that Jesus gave new instructions that overturned God’s allowance of lawful self-defense or just wars against evil. To view Jesus as doing so I believe is to take him out of his Hebraic culture and twist his words into ideas that run counter to his Father’s Holy Scriptures.

    Instead I see Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount to correct a lot of man-made traditions (possibly Oral Torah, other Sage writings, or even popularly held cultural beliefs). During the sermon, Jesus gives several examples of wrong interpretations and
    misapplications of God’s commands, and then he provides the correct
    interpretation and application that God intended. Jesus is not creating new commands that supersede old laws, but is clarifying and showing the true meaning of God’s EXISTING commands.

    Bruce Bertram of wholebible.com puts this nicely with the following from his Matthew 5 commentary:

    God has always connected together attitude with behavior, and has always said that the penalty for sin in either or both is separation from God.

    When they made their rulings, the religious leaders usually dealt with actions only. And they would consider that they had “right standing” with God if they conformed externally to the letter of the written Word as they saw it. But God seeks a people who have a perfect heart in addition to supposed right actions. All through the Tanakh (OT) God constantly deals with a people (such as in Judges 6:10; Jeremiah 3:13, chapter 7) who thought they had the right actions (sacrificing animals or tithing of produce), but would ignore the “weightier measures” (Isaiah 1, 5:7, 59:1-8; Jeremiah 5:1-13; Matthew 23:23) of mercy and compassion. These people got into the habit of, say, committing adultery, going and offering the required sacrifice, then going out and committing adultery again.

    This isn’t all that much different than some people do now. Grace is used in place of the requisite sacrifice, but the behavior is the same. Presume on the goodness of God so doing what seems right in their own eyes is blessed. Sin, erase with Grace, and sin some more. Just keep using God’s grace as some sort of cosmic eraser, and everything will be fine. This is the definition of “following God” for these people. Jesus is pointedly teaching different, going past the “letter of the Law” and filling it with what was originally in there, and should be again.

    BTW – after I started this reply earlier today, I decided to make my weekly post an article promoting a very similar aspect of the point I’m trying to make here. Take a look at: “Jesus’ View of Pacifism – a Hebraic viewpoint”.

    I also think that many people probably miss a vital “clue” from Jesus here. If he was overturning prior Biblical Scripture from the Old Testament (important for people to understand that this was/is the Jewish Bible – the Tanakh – the only written Scripture at the time of Jesus) then Jesus would have used “it is written” as he did when referring to written Scripture (Matt 4:4,7,10, John 10:34) . But instead Jesus (as you yourself mentioned) repeatedly said “You have heard that it was said”. This I think is good evidence that Jesus is commenting not about Scripture from God, but instead is referring to the erroneous traditions of men regarding God’s laws.

    Let’s go a little further and take a look at the two big issues of Self Defense and War – even though war can certainly be considered “self defense” at a national level.

    Regarding self defense at the individual level, Jesus never spoke against what God through Moses clearly allowed in Exodus 22:2. Here God declared that if someone breaks into your home and you kill that person in self-defense, then you are without guilt. If this was no longer allowed, Jesus would have clearly brought it up with a “it is written….”, but he did no such thing. In fact he made no comment whatsoever about Exodus 22:2.

    Defense of others is also directly implied in Deut 22:27. Here the situation under discussion is rape. And verse 27 ends with “but there was no one to save her”. The implication here is that had someone been around to hear her cry out (there wasn’t in the situation given due to no people being around), then the moral duty of those hearing the cry would have been to come and intervene and protect her from being raped.

    A few other Biblical instances regarding self-defense also come to mind. When Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus and cut off the ear of the high priests’ servant, Jesus said a couple of very interesting things. First he told Peter to put his sword back into its place. Jesus did not tell him to get rid of it. Peter was to simply sheath it and to stop trying to prevent what Jesus had foretold and knew was going to happen – that the Scriptures were to be fulfilled. Jesus ALSO said that he could defend himself by calling on God to send 12 legions of angels to defend him. From these two facts we learn that having a deadly weapon is not wrong (just using it in the proper way at the proper time) and that defending oneself is not wrong (since Jesus said he COULD call on it – therefore it is justly allowed by God).

    Other Biblical verses like Proverbs 25:26 tell us “a righteous man who gives way before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well”. Letting an evil person harm us would be doing just that. Also 1 Tim 5:8 warns “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Certainly taking an extreme pacifist position where you wouldn’t use force to stop an evil person from harming one’s family would ultimately be failing to provide for one’s own household.

    To me the bottom line on self-defense is that God clearly allows it in his word. And this is something that God never had to instruct mankind to do. Survival is innate. God designed us, animals, and even various plants with defensive mechanisms for survival. Our very bodies operate this way in that our cells attack and destroy invaders that enter our bodies (germs/viruses) and cause harm. It works this way for the simple reason it makes sense – GOD GIVEN SENSE. To value the life of the bad virus over the life of the good organism is illogical. The same hold true for evil. Anyone attacking us with the intent to murder us, rape our spouse, harm our children, is evil. They are not Christian brothers that we are called to be at peace with. Their very actions prove they are worthy to reap what they are sowing. Nothing is gained by senselessly sacrificing yourself and worse yet your family or friends by failing to stand up to an evil aggressor. Using force to stop evil is not evil. But failing to stop evil when you could is.

    The next subject area of war increases this discussion topic in scope and brings a lot of other issues to the table. Since I’ve already written a ton here and it is really late. I think I’ll broach this second subject part of my return dialog in another comment to come.

    Thanks for going this far with me and I hope I have made some sense in my ramblings.

    Ron S.

  34. on 23 Nov 2008 at 9:04 amMark C.

    First of all, you say you see Jesus “giving the Sermon on the Mount to correct a lot of man-made traditions” rather than overturning the written Law. However, this is incorrect. Among the Old Covenant Laws he refers to are:
    Thou shalt not kill (Matt. 5:21 – Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; Ex. 21:12)
    Thou shalt not commit adultery (Matt. 5:27 – Ex. 20:14; Lev. 20:10; Deut. 5:18)
    In addition, he refers to some other (written) things in the Law that were there because there needed to be regulations on what people wanted to do:
    Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (Matt. 5:31 – Deut. 24:1-4)
    Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths (Matt. 5:33 – Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2-16; Ecc. 5:4)
    An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth (Matt. 5:38 – Ex. 21:22-27; Lev. 24:19-20)
    Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy (Matt. 5:43 – Lev. 19:18; Psalm 139:21-22)

    Jesus “overturns” the Law, not in the sense of saying “it’s now OK to do what was wrong before” but rather, raising it to a higher level. Not only are we not to kill, we are not even to think evil. Not only are we not to commit adultery, we are not even to look on a woman with lust. Not only are we to love our neighbor, we are even to love our enemies.

    Luke 6:
    27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
    28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
    29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
    30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
    31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
    32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
    33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
    34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
    35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

    You’re right, Jesus didn’t mention Ex. 22:2 at all, so any point made about its absence would be and argument from silence. And by the way, that verse says IF it happens there will be no bloodguiltiness. It is in no way ENCOURAGING the killing of thieves, and in fact goes on to say in the next verse that if the thief is killed after sunrise, the one killing him IS guilty of murder.

    Jesus didn’t specifically mention this verse, but he did clearly say to love our enemies, and to bless and pray for even those that would do us harm, in CONRAST to the former attitude that we only have to love those who don’t mean us harm.

    Secondly, you are knocking down straw man arguments, as has been so often done in this and the other thread that discussed these issues. Nobody is saying that if someone is attacked, we DO NOTHING. The passage in Deut. 22:27 implies that had there been someone there they should and would have protected her from being raped. But that says nothing about whether or not it’s permissible to kill in that instance.

    The issue of Peter’s sword has been dealt with in this and the other thread. And as for Jesus saying he could call on angels to defend him, that’s exactly the point – had he chosen to do so, he would have called on ANGELS, not defend HIMSELF with violence.

    The other examples you use (Prov. 25:26; I Tim. 5:8) are further examples of the straw man argument. Again, we are not advocating DOING NOTHING and not STOPPING an evil person from doing us or our family harm. But your assumption that violence and/or killing are the only other options is false. There are other ways of stopping the evil person, not least of which is praying for God’s intervention.

    You say that self defense “is something that God never had to instruct mankind to do.” That’s true, because selfishness and violence are innate in fallen man, as much as survival. The whole idea of “kill or be killed” is indeed a harsh reality in this wicked world. But God’s whole plan is about BREAKING that cycle and eventually restoring this world to the perfection He originally created.

    Comparing the evil person with a germ or virus that should just be destroyed is hardly a viable argument, since they are people and not germs. Germs have no other function, and no choice in their actions. People can repent of their evil actions and change. How can they ever hear the Gospel and repent of their evil if we kill them?

    You made several statements in that context that I must take issue with. First, “They are not Christian brothers that we are called to be at peace with.” If you recall, Jesus did not just say to love our brothers. He said even to love our enemies. Second, “Their very actions prove they are worthy to reap what they are sowing.” Every one of us is worthy of reaping what we sow. That’s why we have a savior, who paid the price for us. Who are we to judge whether another sinner is worse and doesn’t deserve a chance to repent? And third, “Nothing is gained by senselessly sacrificing yourself and worse yet your family or friends by failing to stand up to an evil aggressor. Using force to stop evil is not evil. But failing to stop evil when you could is.” Again, we are NOT saying do nothing to stop someone from doing an evil act. We are saying that wishing them or causing them harm, responding with violence, or especially killing them, violates the Lord’s command to love our enemies. There are other ways of stopping them, and we should even pray for God’s help in avoiding such situations in the first place. Remember, “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer?

    And what about all the examples in the Bible of believers being attacked and even killed for the sake of the Gospel? Should they have fought back? Should they have used violence to avoid being hurt or killed? They didn’t because they knew that even if they died, God would raise them up in the last day, and they would have life in the age to come. The “big picture” has to include that aspect or it’s completely missing Jesus’ whole point.

    The bottom line is that while violence is the world’s way of handling things, Jesus and the other NT writers made it clear that God’s way is love, and it is the greater way. It will not dominate the world in its present evil condition, but it will when Jesus reigns. And in the meantime, as ambassadors of his kingdom, we are to be examples to the world of God’s way.

  35. on 23 Nov 2008 at 10:24 amFrank D

    Is self defense sin?

    Is protecting the lives of your family sin?

    Is helping someone being attacked sin?

    If violence is being done to you and you hurt our attacker, is that sin?

    Is owning a gun sin?

  36. on 23 Nov 2008 at 11:36 amMark C.

    No.

    No.

    No.

    Depends on whether you meant him harm or not.

    No.

    Now my turn:
    Is disobeying the Lord’s commands sin?
    Yup.

  37. on 23 Nov 2008 at 10:52 pmFrank D

    touche!

  

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