Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘violence’

The Description of Government

Further, the Christian pacifist needs to explain why it is apparently morally responsible for governments to engage in the violence of being “an avenger who bring wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4) in God’s eyes and that Christians are to subject themselves to that government – that to resist the government is to resist God!  See also I Peter 2:13-14.

Note that I am not saying that Christians are to obey the government at all times (the Christian ethic is always to obey the Highest Authority when there is conflict between the instruction of multiple authority figures), nor do I think that this passage is teaching that everything governments do is morally right.  However, this passage seems to indicate that this is God’s job description for governments. He wants them to approve of God and “bear the sword” against those who do wrong.

This is also New Testament.

Clearly God Himself did not become non-violent in the New Covenant.   At least in the case of governments, He still (as in the Hebrew Scriptures), at least some of the time, approves of violence.  After all, this is a God who will cast many into a Lake of Fire and Who expresses in His Word that the nature of Spiritual life is analogous to war.

The Burden

So,in my opinion, the only case to be made by the Christian pacifist cannot be “that it is morally wrong to be violent or to kill.” There is no absolute stance against violence or killing.  God kills. In the past, God has instructed man to kill.  In the future, God will continue to vanquish and destroy.  I consider these established biblically.  I have yet to see anyone really take issue with them with anything approaching a valuable argument.

The only ethic for general Christian pacifism, then, has to be limited to:

“It is morally wrong for followers of Jesus Christ to commit violence in this era of existence.”

Given the Hebrew scriptures, apparently God is of the opinion that there is a time to kill and destroy; there are times when killing is the morally right thing to do… and there are times to refrain from violence at all; there are times when not being violent is the morally right thing to do. Consider how men of war are recognized and honored by God and morally upstanding men in the Old Testament; in an appropriate way, war and killing in a combat situation has its place.

So, this argument must be made for a specific audience, to a certain degree at a specific time.   Everything else fails before it starts.

Further, in order to do more than just express their own personal views or conviction, the pacifist must argue that this ethic is right for ALL of that human population or at minimum for ALL of that subset (Christ-followers).  Otherwise, this is just a question of personal conviction.

I am willing to concede for the time being the argument of personal conviction.  I accept that it may be morally right for an individual to believe that what God wants for them is to be a pacifist.

I am not engaging in this in order to argue that every Christ follower should prepare to defend themselves and to be willing to defend themselves and those they are responsible for (at least not yet).

Further, it needs to be shown that this ethic is for here and now.

And, I am willing to accept that there could be layers of pacifism – or various standards within it.  One pacifist might determine that only killing is sin, but harming is not. Another might determine that physical violence of any kind is sin.

Each must be able to make a convincing case that in today’s world, that whatever behavior he or she is forbidding, is immoral for their audience.

“It is morally wrong for Christ followers of this era to engage… in any violent act for any reason.”

Or

“… in any violent act against another human being for any reason.”

Or

“… in any act intending to kill another human being for any reason.”

Though I mentioned natural law, I am engaging with this question as a Christian, so I will be engaging with the Holy Bible and perhaps other Christian ethics as to this question.

As I have continued to research this and look into this and prepare this, I am fascinated at the argument that the pacifist must make! They have to claim that something very significant has very significantly changed in the way God wants His followers to engage with each other!

Let me note that, of course, the teaching against murder is clear all through scripture.  Murder would be the unjusttaking of human life.

The pacifist argument cannot just be about unjust assault or murder.  That it also forbidden all through scripture and everyone knows it.

The pacifist argument has to defend the idea that hurting others is wrong, even if they are hurting you or others – even if they are committing unjust assault or murder.  Hurting, or perhaps at least that killing, as committed by some group, is always wrong.

Continuing on… I am going to engage with the main biblical arguments for pacifism.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Nehemiah 4:9

And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

In debate, there is a focal point of debates called “burden.” I am starting this conversation with what I see to be the burden of the Christian pacifist.  I will warn you, this part isn’t short.  Neither is the rest of it.

Natural Law

(“The doctrine that human affairs should be governed by ethical principles that are part of the very nature of things and that can be understood by reason”– Dictionary.com)

First off, I think it is important to note that the fail safe or default stance on self-defense should be that all human beings have the natural freedom to defend their own life and the lives of those they are responsible for.

In other words, if there were no scripture or ethic to the contrary, humans would, by natural law, be entitled (and perhaps responsible in some cases) to harm or kill an animal or another human in defense of himself or herself.

I do not know for sure if this is agreed upon, since I have rarely seen anyone start the conversation this far back, but I believe it should be.  I don’t put a lot of emphasis on natural law typically.  Here, I am merely mentioning it to indicate that it is “natural” for created beings to defend themselves.

Children fight back; animals fight back; created beings fight back as instinct, and the right to defend one’s own life and well-being as well as the responsibility to protect the weaker, has been considered a God-given right.

So, the burden is on the pacifist to show that for some reason, humans or some subset of humans, are responsible to refuse to defend themselves or others.

God’s Instructions

One thing that a Christian has to be able to argue is that something has radically changed between the ethic of violence in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

God directly instructs violence, executions, and killing in warfare regularly.  Clearly, any directive against violence represents a change in the ethic that God calls His people to.  Anyone who wants to debate this topic as a Christian must concede this.

After God has destroyed much of the human race, as is His right, He declares the ethic for how mankind engages with violence against other humans.  This is not a Jewish law, or a Levitical rule.  This is not just about governments, since there were none in place. God’s ethic for violence against humans was a violent response by other humans.

Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

Genesis 9:6

I want to make clear that this is a teaching from God to the race of mankind.  This is God’s presented ethic about the very topic of human-on-human violence.  There will need to be a teaching of Jesus that changes this ethic if it is to be argued that the new ethic for all Christians is one of non-violence.

I think there is no time needed for defenders of Christian pacifism to attempt to make case from the Hebrew Scriptures.  What is required of them is to show that God has changed His mind on this in regards to His followers at the incarnation or teaching or death or burial or resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And the argument cannot just be from silence. As mentioned above, both natural law and direct instruction from Almighty God calls for man to respond to violence with violence.

Just getting started!

Read Full Post »