Here's an admission that will come as no surprise to those who know me: I'm not a pacifist. In fact, I think radical pacifism is both immoral and unbiblical.
I realize, of course, that some Christians do advocate strict pacifism. They believe all war is immoral; they teach that self-defense is always wrong; and they even sometimes argue that it is wrong to use deadly force to stop a rapist or killer in the commission of his crime.
That sort of pacifism is based on a jejune approach to Scripture and an absurd misapplication of some commandments that are clearly meant to govern how we respond to everyday interpersonal conflicts—not capital crimes and acts of war.
For example, the context shows clearly that Jesus' famous command in Matthew 5:39 ("Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also") applies to personal and individual insults. Jesus wasn't giving a prescription for how nations ought to respond to terrorism and acts of military aggression from enemy armies. In fact, the commandment doesn't apply at all to government authorities in the performance of their duties.
The apostle Paul makes that perfectly clear in Romans 13:4. That verse expressly teaches that government authorities who use force against evildoers are acting as ministers of God. The principle Paul outlines in Romans 13 applies to the use of force (including, sometimes, deadly force) in a wide range of situations—from a just war to the shooting of an armed robber in the commission of his crime to the execution of criminals convicted of capital crimes.
That doesn't authorize any and all use of government force in every situation, obviously. Note that the principle grants rulers authority to use deadly force against those who "do evil." Scripture—not public opinion or some dictator's personal whim—gives the only reliable and authoritative definition of who is an evildoer and how much force is justifiable in which situations.
It would be clearly wrong, and an atrocity by any measure, for an army or individual to cause civilian casualties in a wanton and deliberate way, with the sole aim of provoking horror and dread and thereby subduing innocent people under the tyrrany of a despot, a religious idol, or a false god. That, of course, is the central tactic of terrorism, and that tactic itself is evil and unjust, and deserving of the severest forms of punishment.
Civilian casualties caused unintentionally or as collateral damage in attacks on legitimate military targets are another matter. The mere presence of civilian deaths is not sufficient proof that whatever act of war caused those deaths is ipso facto immoral. I personally would be prepared to argue, for example, that the use of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II was justified because those who ordered those attacks believed the action would end the war quickly and thereby save many lives in the long run. And I believe a strong case can be made to show that is precisely what happened.
I once said those things (or something similar) in the presence of a radical pacifist. He was a former Presbyterian Calvinist who had embraced pacifism, adopted a modified semi-pelagian flavor of Arminianism, and abandoned the principle of substitutionary atonement. He had joined an Anabaptist sect where this sort of doctrine was taught. He told me he had come to see Matthew 5:39 as the interpretive key to all of Scripture. Pacifism, he was convinced, was the central message of Christ's life, and His death on the cross was designed to be a vivid portrayal of the turn-the-other-cheek philosophy. The cross, according to this man's "new" understanding, was not so much a substitute punishment for our sins as a vivid example of how to live in peace.
In other words, this guy had abandoned every vital doctrine of historic evangelicalism and adopted a unique brand of theological liberalism. And by his own admission, this whole paradigm-shift was driven by his radical pacifism.
After explaining why I reject his theory of the atonement (which I still think is the root of his apostasy and the most egregious error in the hideous garland of theological blunders he had woven for himself), I told this guy that as a Christian, I would have no compunction about pulling the pin and lobbing a grenade at Osama bin Laden, even if I knew it would kill bin Laden and everyone else within a 30-foot radius.
Here is the conversation that ensued. My pacifist friend's words are in red:
Compunction is a rather "useful" word in a context like this. But suppose there were no grounds for assuming the innocent victims' guilt before God. Would it then cause you any anxiety or grief to know that you were taking the life of those civilians?
Of course it would cause me grief. It causes me grief just to read about such loss of life. And grief is always intensified the closer you are to a tragedy. But my grief in such circumstances wouldn't be caused by guilt or moral uneasiness over the act itself. In that sense, I would have no "anxiety."
One passage in the NT debunks the sort of pacifism you are defending: Romans 13:4, which expressly grants governments and rulers a right to bear the sword to execute wrath on those who do evil. And the verse clearly states that this is a ministry for good.
Every policeman faces a similar moral dilemma every day when he straps on his gun. I hope you wouldn't argue that there is something morally unsavory about a cop who has to use deadly force to stop a child molester in the act of attacking a helpless child.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Even defending a little girl, how does a 38 Magnum "love" its victim?
Ever hear of "tough love"?
On the other hand, what kind of twisted "love" makes a rapist or killer into a "victim" while refusing to defend the little girls who are the true victims of such miscreants?
I didn't call the attacker a victim, just an enemy.
Yes, you did. You wrote, "Even defending a little girl, how does a 38 Magnum love its victim?"—making the rapist a "victim" and the policeman a wrongdoer, when in reality if the scoundrel gets his brains blown out his left nostril while in the process of molesting a little girl, he is a "victim" of nothing but his own wickedness and the righteous retribution of God.
I was just trying to point out that the policeman wouldn't be showing much love for the enemy if he blows him away with a gun.
On the contrary, if I can prevent him from carrying out the rape, I will have saved him from committing at least one of the sins for which he will have to give account to God. Under the circumstances, it might be the most loving thing I can do for him.
Regarding the issue of defending the little girl, I managed to raise 3 boys and 3 girls without ever having to resort to violence.
Good for you. I sincerely hope for your children and grandchildren's sake you are never put in a position where you need to resort to violence to protect them, because it doesn't sound like you'd have the godly wisdom and manly boldness to do what would need to be done on their behalf in the worst of circumstances.
What helped is that we didn't do things to make people into our enemies.
Really? Notice how subtly you are taking credit for the grace God has mercifully shown you, while implicitly laying blame on the little girl who does get attacked by a rapist. What a twisted sense of "righteousness" your sect has taught you! I never liked radical Anabaptist moralism. Thanks for reminding me why.
Now please tell me, Phil: how do you fulfill Christ's command to love such an enemy as an attacker of little girls? Sola scriptura: give me a Bible verse that supports the killing of bad guys.
I already gave you the Scripture. Romans 13:4 plainly and expressly states that sometimes bearing the sword against an evildoer is a ministry of God for good.
Several years ago, at the church I was attending at the time, we had a kind and godly deacon who had served as a counselor in our church for many years. He was also a city cop. One Sunday he shot and killed a drug-crazed reprobate who drew a gun in the church parking lot during a church service. It was his duty as an off-duty officer to do what he did. It was also, according to Romans 13:4, his biblical duty.
Sometimes church discipline has to be done the hard way.