For the Record (Daniel Heimbach): Why I am Not a Pacifist

[Editor’s Note: Daniel Heimbach is Senior Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored or contributed to fourteen books and published numerous articles and essays. Dr. Heimbach served in the Navy and also served as an adviser to President George H. W. Bush during the first Gulf War. He is the author of several pieces on just war, including, “The Bush Just War Doctrine: Genesis and Application of the President’s Moral Leadership in the Persian Gulf War.” In From Cold War to New World Order: The Foreign Policy of George H. W. Bush. Edited by Meena Bose and Rosanna Perotti (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002), 441-464.]

I was born of missionary parents in the midst of war during the Communist revolution in China, and my life has been touched by war in significant ways. I am also a born again Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ, and a moral theologian who specializes in understanding and teaching ethics. So this topic is one I have thought much about, and not just based on training and research but drawing from experience as well.

The short answer to why I am not a Pacifist is that Jesus was not a Pacifist and what Jesus taught, and what the rest of the Bible teaches, does not align with Pacifist teaching. That for me is the bottom line. Of course I have interests and loyalties as an American that are different from people living in other nations. But my ethics relating to war is not determined by these differences. When it comes to the ethics of war and peace between nations, all that matters to me, or that should matter to anyone else, is how a situation aligns with objective moral reality. And, while human reason is able to analyze this reality, the reality itself is fixed by the Moral Ruler of the Universe who is none other than Jesus Christ himself.

I do not enjoy war and am all too familiar with its horror. In fact I sincerely wish I could embrace Pacifism. That would be easy for me to do. Pacifism is very popular among others in my professional class and embracing it would result in a lot of personal affirmation and praise. I cannot do that with integrity, however, simply and only because I am convinced without a doubt that, when the Bible is accepted as the inerrant, authoritative, and plenary Word of God written, it cannot be reconciled with Pacifist ideology. I do not think Christians should go around starting wars. But I do believe the Bible teaches that God expects, and in fact requires, morally responsible rulers sometimes to use deadly force to defend weak and innocent people against unwarranted aggression, and also requires rulers to use coercive power where necessary to correct specific acts of injustice-taking care when they do these things to keep what they do within well defined moral boundaries.

What I have just described is the ethic of Just War, which is an ethic of war and peace between nations quite different in attitude and approach to the ethic of Pacifism. The main difference between these opposing approaches is that Pacifism is a perfectionist social ideology impossible ever to achieve before Jesus comes back to establish a perfect world, and Just War is a form of moral realism that recognizes we do not yet live in a socially perfect world. Unlike Pacifism, Just War is an ethic consistent with a sober understanding that we live in a wicked world filled with wicked people, and that by God’s choice this will continue to be the case until God himself removes all need for war by utterly removing all sin from the world. This also is consistent with humbly accepting the fact that only God can do this and we cannot.

The teaching and life of Jesus is the most important place Christians should go when deciding how to approach the ethics of war and peace. Pacifists claim Jesus was a Pacifist, and if they are right that would settle the question. But they are not right. Jesus was not a Pacifist himself, and he did not teach a Pacifist ethic for his disciples or anyone else to follow.

Jesus certainly is the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6; Lk 1:79). But the sort of “peace” Jesus offers the world is the peace of reconciling sinners to God. He did not launch a movement to remove all weapons of war or to disband all armies in a still very sinful world. He did not announce a program for pursuing civil non-violence no matter what happens in a wicked world. Pacifists read civil non-violence into every mention of “peace” in the New Testament. But that is hardly ever what the original human authors or the Holy Spirit were addressing.

In the one place Jesus did clearly address “peace” in the civil non-violence sense-the sort of “peace” Pacifists have in mind-he firmly and absolutely denied he was teaching an ethic of Pacifism. In that passage Jesus very clearly explains to his disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace (in the civil non-violence sense) on the earth, I did not come to bring peace (in the civil non-violence sense) but a sword” (Mt 10:34). Jesus also assumed that morally responsible kings must sometimes go to war, and when they do they ought to apply the Just War principle of not sending troops into battle where there is no chance of success (Lk 14:31).

While Pacifists make much of the fact that Jesus rebuked Peter’s use of the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane, I as a responsible moral theologian am not free to read into what Jesus said anything that in any way contradicts what Jesus himself said to his disciples (including Peter) just an hour or so earlier that same evening. Before leaving the Upper Room, Jesus told his disciples that after he left this earth (still future when Jesus rebuked Peter in Gethsemane) they should carry with them and be prepared to use weapons of deadly force to defend as necessary against attack (Lk 22:36). This does not mean Christians should enjoy fighting or should go around stirring up wars. But neither does it mean Christians may never use deadly force or should never participate in fighting wars for any reason.

Finally, we must not forget that Jesus of the New Testament is also God of the Old Testament. Because the character of God never changes (Ps 102:27; Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17), this means the moral character of Jesus cannot be different than it always had been and always will be-without variation. So, if God in the Old Testament approved Just War (as in Deuteronomy 20 and Amos 1), then so did Jesus in the New Testament. This is an important part of the essential doctrine affirmed about Jesus in the book of Hebrews, which is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

I believe that Jesus of the New Testament is God of the Old Testament. I believe that the moral character of Jesus in the New Testament is unchanged from what it was in the Old Testament. I believe that as God did not teach Pacifism in the Old Testament so Jesus did not teach Pacifism in the New Testament. And so we end where we started. I am not a Pacifist simply and only out of fidelity to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ himself as faithfully witnessed and recorded in the Bible itself.

  10Comments

  1. Paul   •  

    Dr. Heimbach –

    While I respect your zeal to affirm the unity of God’s character across the “boundaries” of the testaments, I sincerely hope that you have better support for your position than what is explained in this post.

    “I believe that the moral character of Jesus in the New Testament is unchanged from what it was in the Old Testament. I believe that as God did not teach Pacifism in the Old Testament so Jesus did not teach Pacifism in the New Testament.”

    This statement for me is exegetically backwards. Rather than superimposing our interpretation of God’s genocidal holy wars forward onto the Prince of Peace, I would challenge you to up end your argument, backreading the profound peacemaking of Jesus upon the difficult, bloody narratives of the Hebrew scriptures.

    In my reading, Christ’s example is one of profound peacemaking. While this is not co-extensive with many modern concepts of pacifism (John Howard Yoder is the voice to read on that), it does radically impact how we view the role of violence in history, and in our own lives.

    Christians are called to radical, self-sacrificial peace. The sermon on the mount alone makes that clear. While there are no easy answers to the outworking of that commitment in our bloody, fallen world, it does not absolve us of the responsibility and honor of joining Jesus in forsaking the way of the sword.

  2. Chris   •  

    If the best you can do for Jesus teaching against pacifism is Mt. 10:34 and Luke 14:31 then sign me up for pacifism!

    Mt. 10:34 certainly does NOT mean what you suggest, I’m pretty sure the ‘sword’ is symbolic of families and communities being CUT APART based on believing or rejecting Christ [it’s HIS sword, not ours]. Does your interpretation require that I carry an actual sword in case I need to kill my father based on v. 35?

    Luke 14:31 is a parable to consider the cost of following Jesus and NOT literally a manual for careful planning before an actual war! Can I use all parables the way you are using this one (I’m thinking of a conniving manager and how Jesus must be advocating me lying to and stealing from my boss)?

    And YES, Jesus telling them to carry a sword and then not to use one must mean that He believes BOTH! Well, maybe the guy just made a mistake, I mean He’s only human, oh wait… I guess I don’t understand, being a lowly laymen, but it seems to me that Jesus is showing them that the sword they need to take up is NOT a physical one!! Seems like Paul felt that way too, the whole spiritual battle and not fighting against flesh and blood thing.

    Finally, you really nail the pacifists when you bring in the OT like nothing about the inaugurated eschatology changes anything. YES! Let’s set up a government based on the OT and stone all the ‘sinners’! That sounds just like Jesus!!

    Are you serious?!? I don’t consider myself a pacifist, but I’m a lot closer after this post!

  3. David Van Lant   •  

    Dr. Heimbach’s quote of Jesus’ saying that He brought the sword rather than peace is selective and defective with regard to supporting the just war theory.

    “In the one place Jesus did clearly address “peace” in the civil non-violence sense-the sort of “peace” Pacifists have in mind-he firmly and absolutely denied he was teaching an ethic of Pacifism. In that passage Jesus very clearly explains to his disciples, ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace (in the civil non-violence sense) on the earth, I did not come to bring peace (in the civil non-violence sense) but a sword’ (Mt 10:34).”

    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

    Jesus’s words here have nothing to do with just war theories, or pacifism, or civil non-violence. The point is that one’s loyalty to Him must surpass all others. The “sword” He brings is not about the use or non-use of force. Those issues are not even in the picture. The “sword” He brings refers to the division that inevitably results when anyone does presume to make loyalty to Jesus supreme over all others. Pacifists and just war theorists alike, need to look elsewhere for support.

  4. Daniel Heimbach   •  

    Responing to Paul, I do not agree with your conclusions or interpretive method, but I do appreciate to your consideration of my thoughts. You claim that my approach to biblical interpretation is “exegetically backwards.” But while I agree that I am taking an approach that is reverse to your own, I am also sure that I am exeggetically more faithful to scripture than you are. That is because I take the same exegetical approach that Jesus did in Matthew 19:4-6, and you are suggesting that we do the exact opposite. When asked a question about proper interpretation of God’s Word, Jesus relied on earliler revelation as a basis for interpreting later revelation–not the other way around. The reason for taking this approach is because God never changes or contradicts Himself, and therefore what God says at some later time must always comply with what God has said earlier in time. It is you, not me, who is rejecting standard biblical hermineutical methodology. You also treat my appeal to the unchanging moral character of God as “superimposing” what you call “God’s genocidal holy wars forward onto the Prince of Peace.” But pejorative vocabulary aside, is this not exactly what God does Himself? I mean here that where the Bible declares “there is no shadow of turning” in God and that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” how can that not mean the ethical character of God in the OT is the same (you might say “imposed”) as the ethical character of God in the NT? There is also some inconsistency in denying the relevance of OT ethics where you do not like what it says, and then accepting its relevance where it says something you like. For example, you reject the continued relevance of God’s approval of war in the OT, but then claim Jesus is the Prince of Peace given in Isaiah 9:6. You simply cannot have your cake on this and then expect to eat it as well. Finally I question your claim that “join[ing] Jesus” means “forsaking the way of the sword.” Of course Jesus did not join any military conflict, and never killed anyone, during his life on earth. But Jesus did use a whip to drive money changers out of the temple, which must have inflicted pain. He approved of how morally wise and responsible kings sometimes lead armies into battle. And he specifically warned his followers to understand that, after he left this earth, they would need to carry weapons at times when needed to defend themselves against physical attack. In closing, I do not wish to make it sound as if I think reconciling the war ethic of God in the OT with the ethics taught by Jesus in the NT something light and easy, for that is something with which all serious minded Christians should wrestle. Rather I am only unwilling to take the easy path of simply claiming that the ethics of war revealed by God in the OT is simply cast aside and replaced by a completely difference and contrary ethic in the NT. Having wrestled with it at length myself, I have come to see how, while there is no moral discontinuity dividing the war ethic of the NT from the war ethic of the OT, there also are several very clear qualifying criteria that do not permit human rulers ever to launch crusadic holy wars unless God actually commands it, God promulgates the terms and purposes of battle, and God leads his people into battle personally. For more on this I refer you to my chapter on “How Currently Relevant Is the Old Testament Crusade Ethic?” that will appear as chapter 10 in a book that will be released by IVP later this year titled, “Old Testament Holy War and Christian Morality.”

  5. Daniel Heimbach   •  

    Responding to Chris, I must first say it surprises me to hear anyone say he would not take pacifism seriously except for reading my post. Your reaction shows that you already take the pacifist position far more seriously than you let on. Fair enough. But do not credit me for driving you to it. Secondly, you claim you are “pretty sure” the reference Jesus makes to “a sword” in Matthew 10:34 is symbolic and not literal. Aside from admitting you are not “really sure” what Jesus was saying in Matthew 10:34 (which I accept), allow me then to explain why I am confident that Jesus meant exactly what a plain reading of the text says he was saying. I realized, of course, that what Jesus meant by “a sword” can cover other weapons of deadly force besides just swords. But what the term stands for cannot refer to just any sort of conflict however non-violent. To make sense at all the reference must refer to violent conflict and must (in a central and essential way) at least include using actual swords–or else the term original force from which to extend its meaning further. I mean here that it is only BECAUSE what Jesus meant had to include using actual swords that what “a sword” means has any symbolic force to be extended to include other weapons as well. Third, you are too easily overlooking the point I was making, which is that Jesus in Matthew 10:34 was making a reference to using weapons of violence and there specifically denied that he was ushuring in an ethic defined by non-violence. Fourth, you allege that my interpretation is an act of “reinterpreting” the biblical text. But I fear it is you, not I, who “reinterpreting” the plain reading of the biblical text. Fifth, you wrongly dismiss the relevance of what Jesus says in Luke 14:31 as if calling a “parable” reduces its illustrative force. The reference Jesus makes to “a king about to go to war” is a direct illustration of his point and no parable. Parables sybolize truth in figurative form, but there is nothing in the text to indicate Jesus did not intend this to be taken directly as stated. No, rather Jesus is saying, “this is what kings do, and when this or that happens, this or that reaction is wise or foolish.” Sixth, when it comes to limiting interpretation of what Jesus meant in rebuking Peter by what he had himself told his disciples only a couple hours earlier that same evening (Luke 22:36), allow me to point out that the plain reading of the text is the plain reading of the text. Nothing more and nothing less. What you say “seems” contradictory is not contradictory at all. There is no conflict in the text and what you say “seems” contradictory is only so if you have a prior commitment to pacifism that has no way to reconcile Luke 22:36 without recourse to human falibitiy (which denies the incarnation), or to errancy (which denies the inerrancy of scripture), or to symbolism (which has no basis in the biblical text).

  6. Daniel Heimbach   •  

    Responding to David Van Lant, I agree that quoting Jesus in a “selective and defective” way would be academically sloppy and morally irresponsible. But while I am willing to consider honest criticism and wish always to be corrected by scripture, I see you making critical charges with no supporting justification. In other words, you have said as stating nothing more than “I do not agree only because I do like what I read.” Let me respond to your criticism by arguming against it giving reasons why I think I am correct and you are not. You disagree with my treatment of Matthew 10:34 saying (1) that what Jesus said has “noting to do with just war theories, or pacifism, or civil non-violence,” (2) that “the point is that one’s loyalty to Him (Jesus) must surpass all others,” and (3) that “the ‘sword’ He (Jesus) brings is not about the use or non-use of force.” First I partically agree and also parcially disagree with what you say in #1 above. I agree if you mean that Jesus is not teaching any ethical theory as an ethical theory. I have not said that he was and you should not suppose that I assume so. But I disagree if you mean that what Jesus taught has no relevant bearing to any discussion about the ethics of war, or has no logical connection to affirming one moral approach to the ethics of war and peace over others. While Jesus is not espousing classical just war ethics per se, he is affirming the unified and coherent moral revelation of God which in Deuteronomy 20 and Amos 1 & 2 clearly frames what has come be refered to as the just war approach to moral thinking on matters regarding war and peace. I am not saying that Jesus was parroting any sort of human tradition (however good), but rather am saying that what men have come to recognize by the rubric of just war does in fact arise from the way God has always expected human rulers to conduct themselves in matters of war and peace. Second, I also agree to a point with what you say in #2 above where you say that Jesus was teaching “one’s loyalty to Him (Jesus) must surpass all others.” But you wrongly assume that is all Jesus was teaching and no more. In fact it is because what Jesus taught about not coming to assure an ethic of non-violence applies to flesh and blood conflict on earth that it has any carry over meaning for sacrificial loyalty to Jesus over all others. But, third, I do not agree with your claim in #3 at all. What you say in #1 and #2 have nothing to do with what you say in #3. Rather what you say in #3 consists of nothing more than asserting a contrary claim without any supporting argument to back it up. This leads me to turn what you say in #1 back on what you say in #3 because you cannot legitimately presuppose a pacifist ethic and then use it to allege out of the blue that the reference Jesus makes in Matthew 10:34 to “a sword” has nothing to do with “the use or non-use of force.” Of course it does. The plain reading of the text REQUIRES it both grammatically and logically, or else what Jesus says makes no sense at all. Normal people hearing Jesus speak those words at the time would OBVIOUSLY hear Him in that way and there is nothing in the biblical text to clarify that normal people listening to Jesus should not take Him that way. What “peace” is set in contrast to “a sword” the logical and grammatical sense has to immediately refer to non-violence contrasted to violence. And the point Jesus makes concerning the cost of discipleship is that unconditional fidelity to Jesus will not assure civil tranquility on earth. Rather he is saying the polar opposite, which is that fidelity to Jesus will at times provoke violent reactions from people to the point of using deadly force used in going to war. Jesus is not embracing an ethic of beligerence, but he is not promoting an ethic of pacifism either. …. And that is the only point I was making.

  7. Daniel Heimbach   •  

    Responding to Derek, I wish to say that I very much appreciate his thoughtful blog intacting with the satement I made here. For readers who have not seen what Derek posted, I suggest checking out “Derek Vreeland’s Blog” which can be found at .

    While I do not agree with everything Derek said, I would like him and other readers to know that I appreciate (1) his spirit, (2) his thoughtfulness, (3) his faith, and (4) his commitment to the authority of scripture. With that, here are a eight points on which I challenge Derek to cogitate a little further.

    1: You point out that while you accept my convicion that Jesus was not a pacifist, you react by saying “neither did Jesus teach what we understand as the just war theory.” That is fair enough, but you miss my point here. Of course Jesus was not a proponent of any specific human theory, and I never suggested that he was. Jesus was God teaching and applying God’s true morality to life on earth. Rather I would hold that just war theory does in fact reflect God’s true ethical approach to war and peace where in concerns the role God assigns human rulers for the here and now. And I would say this fact can be seen rather clearly in Deuteronomy 20 and Amos 1 & 2. God does not say “I am applying what you call just war theory” in these chapters. He is merely acting as Moral Ruler of the Universe. But when God judges the actions of human rulers in matters of war it can be seen over and over again that the moral principles applied by God assume the same structure of moral judgement that frames the just war ethic.

    2: You tell readers that just war is “an ethical theory developed by Augustine in the fifth century.” That is not historically accurate. Augustine did contribute to Christian understanding of just war tradition. But he did not start it off, did not establish its initial framing, and never systematically presented what it entailed. The just war tradition comes from two separate streams–one biblical and on classical–both of which predated Augustine by many centuries. The earliest evidence of just war morality is Abraham’s batter to rescue Lot and other hostages taken by a coalition of kings from Messopotamia. It is also the ethic God lays out for Israel’s relations with nations beyond the Promised Land, and it is the ethic by which God as Moral Ruler of the Universe judges the war actions of all governing authorities anywhere on earth.

    3: You say that “what Jesus taught was enemy-love, an ethical love he demonstrated on the cross.” True enough. But you are mistaking a part for the whole. The ethical love he demonstrated on the cross was PART of what Jesus taught to be sure. But it was not a lesson that applied to how Jesus expected responsible goverment to behave. At least the non-resistent MANNER Jesus demonstrated enemy-love on the cross is not the way he expected it always to be expressed, because Jesus tells his own disciples in Luke 22:36 to carry swords for self-defense (obviously to use as necessary) in the future after he left them.

    4: You question the basis for my claim that the Bible as a whole teaches the fact that “God expects, and in fact rrequires, morally responsible rulers to sometimes use deadly force to defend weak and innocent people against unwarranted aggression” and imply this may not be so because you suspect I may be hanging it all on Romans 13:1-7. While the Romans passage does support this, there are multiple passages throughout the OT & NT supporting my point. Take the following for example: Eccl 3:8 “There is a time for war, and a time for peace”; Psa 144:1 “Praise the LORD … who trains my hands for war”; Luke 14:31 Jesus affirms thata wise kings must sometimes to to war; Psa 82:3-4 God requires human rulers to “defend the cause of the weak … (to) rescue the weak and needy,(and to) deliver them from the hand of the wicked”; Prv 2:7-8 God “holds victory in store for the upright … and guards the course of the just”; and Heb 11:33-34 Some are commended for pleasing God by expercising faith by which they “conquored kingdoms … become powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”

    5: You say that while we both worship Jesus as the Prince of Peace, “Dr. Heimbach limits this peace to primarily ‘the peace reconciling sinners to God.'” I think you are confusing biblical and logical categories here. I never suggested anywhere that Jesus urged his disciples to be beligerant. Rather I was only stressing the rather obvious fact that his primary emphasis when instructing his disciples about “peace” concerned escaping the Wrath of God by reconciling sinners to God through faith–not civil tranquility. And it is not hermeneutically fair to read other definitions or meanings of “peace” into such statements. We must take Jssus teaching on avoiding beligerance only from passages where he is teaching it (turn the other cheek for example), not from passages where Jesus is teaching something else. As for worshiping the Prince of Peace, I think it is you, not me, who is reading more into the biblical title than is textually warranted. That title for Jesus comes from Isa 9:6 where “Prince of Peace” certainly does NOT mean non-violence because he will “establish” (enforce) his rule “with justice” meaning he will empose it with effective force upon all opposing forces. That much is made most clear in Psalm 2:9 where God says “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

    6: You fault me for reducing the teaching of Jesus on “peace” to nothing more than reconcililng sinners to God. But I think you lay that charge on me unfairly because I said or suggested nothing of the sort. Rather I denying that we should read into the teaching statements of Jesus different meanings than communicated to his original audience. I agree so far as it goes with your caution to avoid unnecessary reduction. But you should agree with my caution also to avoid reading in more than was communiicated in the original context. Though I agree biblical references to “peace” can sometimes be used generally to cover a range of meanings, whether that is the case or not is governed by the textual and grammatical context and should not be stretched to cover everything readers happen to desire. Finally on this point, it seems to me that you are confusing an ethic of “avoiding unnecessary violence” with an ethic of “always rejecting violence no matter what.” Of course Jesus demonstrated an ethic of “avoiding unnecessary violence,” but he did NOT teach or demonstrate an ethic of “always rejecting violence no matter what.”

    7: You dogmatically assert that where Jesus says “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), he “is clearly using hyperbole.” But if so, then you would have to dismiss his warning in the same place that “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” is nothing more than hyperbole. But since that is quite literally the case, I have more contextual grounding for asserting that his statement about NOT teaching an ethic of avoiding violence no matter what is intended quite literally. Understand here that I am NOT saying Jesus was teaching his disciples to BE violent, only that he was not teaching them to avoid violence at all costs.

    8: Finally I obviously agree with where you say that you “believe that ruling authorities have the responsibility to protect their citizens and enforce laws that maintain order.” But then you in effect take back what you say by asking “but is deadly force the answer?” Of course it is not always the answer, and we should always prefer upholding order and justice in this life by as much as possible by non-violent measures. But the point is that SOMETIMES in a fallen world rulers must rely on violent measures AS A LAST RESORT. If that were not the case, then neither Jesus nor Paul would ever have refered to good kings going to war, or soldiers serving in the army in God-pleasing ways, or professional military officers continuing in their profession after joining the church, or governing authorities being agents of “terror … for those who do wrong, or of followers of Jesus using “swords” for protectin in dangerous circumstances.

    Again I appreciate the tone and depth of this interaction.

  8. Derek   •  

    Dr. Heimbach, thanks for the response! Thank you for taking the time to dialogue with me. I am convinced that growth in Christ requires respectful, humble dialogue on issue that tend to divide Christians. Name-calling, finger-pointing, and mud-slinging over points of disagreement in Christian theology and ethics does little to help either side. Conversation is much better. I too appreciate your faith and respect for the Scripture. Here are my responses to each of your eight points:

    1. You wrote, “Jesus was God teaching and applying God’s true morality to life on earth” and so, I would ask: Where do we see Jesus teaching anything related to the just war theory? I understand that you can build a just war theory on passages from the Old Testament where God did in fact sanction wars, but it would seem that Jesus was quiet on this issue. I certainly do not want to build an argument from silence. So what did Jesus say? If Jesus is the embodiment of moral truth, then I want to form my moral opinions through him, interpreting all of the Scripture (OT and NT) through him. While Jesus does not speak of the ethics of war, per se, he does have a lot to say about peace-making, forgiveness, and enemy love.

    2. On the issue of the history of just war, I will concede, as my knowledge is limited in his area. My question would be: Do we see the just war theory in patristic writings before Augustine? Maybe there was no need for Christians to write on the subject of justifiable war pre-Constantine. I am not sure.

    3. Jesus demonstrated enemy love on the cross, but you assert that he did not expect responsible governments to behave in like manner. I would disagree with your assumption. Again because of Jesus’ silence on the issue of war, we are left to speculate. I would disagree, because Jesus has called us to make disciples of the nations and call even those who are rulers to repent and “observe all” Jesus commanded. Jesus did tell his disciples to carry swords, but he did not tell them what to do with them. I do think self-defense is a good assumption, but self-defense would need to be defined in the context of “not resisting an evil person,” an ethical dilemma that I continue to struggle with. Nevertheless, carrying a sword does not imply “use deadly force” and it does not negate the command to love our enemies.

    4. Your list of texts supporting your assertion that God expects rulers to use deadly force is heavy-ended on the Old Testament. You mentioned the Luke 14:31 text and as I mentioned in my original response, I found your use of this text to be a bit contrived. It seems that the context of this verse is counting the cost to follow Jesus and the mention of kings going to war is a mere illustration of Jesus’ larger point about discipleship and NOT about the ethics of war. The Hebrews 11 reference is again recounting the stories of the OT. Outside of Romans 13, I do not believe there is a clear NT passage that could be used to justify your position. If we are using the OT as our moral guide on the ethics of war then wouldn’t we be left with forming church-sponsored militias who use deadly force to destroy God’s enemies? I think we both find such a proposition as absurd.

    5. I am interpreting “the Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6) within the context of Isaiah’s messianic vision of when “every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire” (Isaiah 9:5). So I do interpret “peace” here in terms of non-violence. Jesus is currently establishing his rule with justice and he is not doing it by using “effective force upon all opposing forces.” Jesus is establishing justice through love, forgiveness, and mercy in and through the church. This way of interpreting peace is some-what eschatological. The coming kingdom will see an end to war and Jesus is ruling and reigning over that kingdom now.

    6. I found your charge that pacifists read civic non-violence into “into every mention of ‘peace’ in the New Testament,” to be a bit too strong. I think that many references to “peace” in the New Testament refer to civic peace, i.e. peace between people. All I am saying is that peace is a “both/and” situation…both peace with God and peace between people. And I very well may be confusing matters in my comments on violence. I am still wrestling with these issues. It depends on how you define “violence.” I guess where I am today is that violence as deadly force, as killing another human being, should be rejected. I am working towards forming a consistent ethic of the sanctity of life. After all, who would Jesus kill?

    7. I do not believe Jesus was telling his disciples that he literally came to bring the literal sword of war and violence. The reference to the sword is the hyperbole illustrating his literal comments related to members of their household becoming enemies. The context is literal family conflict, in my reading of the text, and not literal bloodshed (i.e. violence). Jesus is saying that we cannot avoid family division. I do not see anything in this passage connecting the sword with violence. Furthermore, if you interpret peace as “civic non-violence,” then are you interpreting the sword as “physical violence.” I would assume not, but that would seem to be a part of where you are trying to go with interpreting this as Jesus NOT teaching civic non-violence.

    8. It seems to me that as long as ruling authorities see war as an option, even as a last resort, war will continued to be waged and dismissed as necessary to protect citizens. And so I agree with you that “we should always prefer upholding order and justice in this life by as much as possible by non-violent measures.”

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply and interaction.

  9. Pingback: Missio Alliance | Questioning the Just War Assumption

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