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Monday, December 13, 2010

On Liberal Protestants and Pacisfism

"..another popular liberal bumper sticker proclaims, "War Is not the Answer." It, too, is completely meaningless. If the question is, "What is the square root of 8?" war is not the answer. But if the question is "How do you stop genocidal regimes?" war probably is the answer." Dennis Prager

Today's article by Mark Tooley informs of of the growing uhber-pacifism movement among certain Christian denominations....

"The latest voice is distinguished evangelical New Testament scholar Ben Witherington (above), a frequent television commentator on biblical topics who commendably and thoughtfully has disputed the Jesus Seminar, the Da Vinci Code and other nonsense. Many religious pacifists of late, including prominent Evangelical Left activist Jim Wallis, are vague about their pacifism, speaking against war, while touting more benign "police" actions, as though they were non-violent. Witherington, in a recent exchange, more consistently suggests Christians must avoid serving in both military and police.

In that exchange with a fellow theologian, Witherington declared he did not think "Christians should either serve in the military or as police." And he wondered whether Christians could even serve as military chaplains or medics. Witherington insisted: "In short, for the Christian, there are plenty of things worth dying for and giving your life for, but nothing worth killing for, for life is of sacred worth, and we are called to save it, even from itself..."

America's Mainline Protestants have been displaced in influence by evangelicals. Unease by many young evangelicals with the length of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has almost certainly fueled widening support for pacifism. But the old Social Gospel pacifism of the last century has been displaced by Anabaptist notions of at least superficial separatism and ambivalence about the state. Old Evangelical Left fixtures, like Jim Wallis, still motivated by 1960s era anti-war activism, and relentless fans of Big Government, have ironically embraced some Anabaptist themes in their wider campaigns against American force. More traditional Evangelicals and Protestants, sometimes unsure of their own tradition, are too often absent from the debate.

Insisting that Christians shun not only the military but also law enforcement, as Witherington suggested, is more faithful to historic Anabaptist separatist beliefs and more morally consistent than what Evangelical Leftists like Wallis usually assert. But removing Christians from government hardly bodes well for a nation increasingly spiritually adrift. And debating pacifism during America's next major crisis, as many Mainline Protestant elites were during even World War II, hardly seems wise. Lawson Stone's exchange with Witherington hopefully will help motivate other evangelicals to burnish their intellectual and spiritual weapons for an important debate that may help determine America's capacity for survival."

The above links are quite informative if anyone is interested in this type of debate. I think Witherington commits an error by arguing during the exchange that "Jesus said no violence" which is overly simplistic to say the least. True, Jesus did say "Blessed are the peacemakers.." and also extolled the virtues of turning the other cheek. However at no point is the concept of "Peace" uplifted over all others and nor did He command His followers to push for peace no matter what the potential price in human suffering could result in such prioritization. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below.


Gregg said...

Almost everyone is familiar with the pithy statement concerning real estate; what is the most important thing about real estate? Location, location, location!

In scripture interpretation, we also have a pithy axiom; what is the most important thing about interpretation? Context, context, context!

One must read a passage carefully, observing all that is in the passage, then one must determine what the passage is saying by "closing" the cultural, historical, grammatical, and contextual gaps between the passage and the interpreter, and then determine what does the passage mean based on what it says.

There are a number of passages that deal with everyday living and relationships between believers. Humility, submission, forgiveness, "turn the other cheek," and similar passages lead believers to proper relationships with one another.

The Scripture does not forbid war, military, or even police activities. God, who never changes, is a God of war. He led Israel on a number of campaigns.

God established government (Romans 13) to maintain peace and order. Government is a tool of God to punish the evil and reward the good. Government has forgotten this today and usually is found doing the opposite.

Government, in order to maintain safety and peace will at times utilize police activities or more seriously, will engage in war.

There are no biblical grounds to sustain a pacifist status. There are no biblical grounds that would prohibit a person from serving in either the military or law enforcement.

The issue that I have with going to war is the reason or purpose. We always say it is to protect American interests and protect our freedom. There lies my issue. When was the last time the military fought a war to protect my freedom? I can't think of one time either. They have fought for various reasons but barring the Civil War, the last Army to invade US soil was England. Japan did bomb Pearl Harbor and off the west coast.

There are no biblical injunctions either in the OT or the NT that would prohibit American from maintaining a military for protection from invasion.

Granted life is sacred, we all were created in the image of God. Therefore God prohibited the unwarranted taking of human life - murder.

God did not prohibit the warranted taking of human life. God established the death penalty for crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, homosexuality, and bestiality. There were times it was legitimate to end a human life.

Granted as Israel was rejected by God and the relationship was severed for a time in AD 70 all of Israel's laws came to an end, such as stoning rebellious children, stoning adulterers and adultressess, putting to death those who violated the Sabbath, Gentiles who violated the temple, and the death laws concerning homosexuality, bestiality, and such.

However, the death penalty for murder was given in Genesis as a universal law and is not and has never been rescinded. So, one can not make the argument that with the sanctity of human life, the death penalty is either wrong or violates the tenets of pacifism.

There are consequences to sin, sometimes very severe consequences.

There is certainly the opportunity of preference for whether one serves in the military, government, or law enforcement. However, this no biblical basis with proper exegesis and principles of hermeneutics to prohibit anyone from doing so.

Froggie said...

It is my opinion that it is absolutely insane in our modern society to consider war as a solution for anything beyond a direct threat to our lives and freedom.
The war in Iraq has bankrupted the country. There is no money to fight these senseless wars.

Gregg said...

Froggie - I agree, let the other countries deal with their issues. That is what I meant when we haven't fought a war to directly threatens our live or freedom. You are right we don't have money to fight a war, but there is plenty of money to be made by war by those who supply the means.

Froggie said...

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

R.O. López said...

John 15:13 -- There is no greater love that this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.

Soldiers are Christ figures. We endure and suffer so that others may be saved. I can't speak for air or naval forces, but ground forces (Army, Marines) follow the Golden Rule because we do nothing to the enemy that we are not vulnerable to having the enemy do to us.

Paul says to love your enemy, but also to conquer your enemy with love. You may have to kill the enemy that you love to conquer him. Thus in John it says the body is a sacrifice for the soul.

Christ says to offer the other cheek if one cheek has been struck, and to offer your shirt if a man steals your cloak. None of this precludes pre-emptive warfare which is totally different. Christ means not to retaliate in haste, especially if restraint won't kill you. But Paul also says to feed your enemy when he's hungry, for then you will pour burning coals on his head. So you do nice things and when the time comes send in the Marines and bomb them to kingdom come.

The Iraq War, in 20 years, will be remembered as the right war, and Afghanistan the wrong war. Watch the tables turn. Everything Froggie says about Iraq I say about Obama and Afghanistan.