04 October 2005

Go ahead. Make my day.

Other articles in this series:

Make my day, punkHere'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.

Phil's signature


pilgrim said...

I remember being accused once of being a pacifist. That made me laugh, and my half joking response was, "I'm non-violent, not a paciifist" I explained that meant I don't go looking for violence, but sometimes it is necessary, as in the example you gave at the end.
And it is Biblical--the state is to protect its people.

I can watch an action movie and not be offended if the violence is not gratuitous. (Unfortunately too many are gratuitous.) For example a war movie--people get killed in war.
But if the movie is gratuitously shoowing bllod and gore and more for the sake of shock value--well that isn't my thing. If it's to show the horror war can be--that can be a good thing.

The Bible is a violent book in many ways--but in proper ways. The violence should not excite us or be seen a gratuitous. There are responsibilities and consequnces. So I guess I am non-violent, in the sense I don't seek it out or promote it, but I'm not a pacifist who shuns all signs of violence.

Chris Meirose said...

Amen brother! Between you lobbing hand grenades, and Campi reloading his semi-automatic, it's been an evangelical gun love fest! I actually struggle to not have contempt for those who embrace pacifism.

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

John R. said...

Good post.

I disagree with the thought that killing a child molester would make him accountable for one less sin. He sinned in his thoughts and plans before he moved in action to sin. Regardless....

I can only think of the trouble we'd be in if a government, responsible to punish evil, no longer believes in evil.

What happens when people get in power who don't even want to call terrorists "terrorists?"

Fathers have a responsibility to defend their families. It is a moral obligation.

Also, the same Jesus your friend called a pacifist has had all judgement committed to His trust. Does your friend think Christ will not send anyone to hell? Is that not the "worst" form of violence?

marc said...

In college, my history prof recomended this odd book Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand which is "packed with entertaining anecdotes based on obscure pastoral autobiographies, the diaries of early missionaries, the minutes of church court trials, and other curious source material. IF I remember correctly, there is a story of a preacher shooting someone in the middle of a sermon. They don't teach that one in Homiletics.

Chris said...

"Sometimes church discipline has to be done the hard way."

I know what you mean, but I'm just waiting for someone to jump all over that.

Joe said...

Phil, I am in essential agreement with what you wrote here. Unfortunately, from my persective, many Christians in America are careless with their theology in this area. Ignorant pacifism is just as unbiblical as warmongering. But I tend tend to run into less pacifism among Evangelicals, and more careless words about war and violence.

My question is, does Rom. 13 allow for individual civilians to carry out the penalty of the "sword," or does context restrict application to governing authorities? Obviously, the cop who pulled the gun was acting appropriately as a servant of the state. Just looking for clarity on your post. Thanks man.

David said...

Pacifists... there is no such thing as a 38 magnum.

I was just thinking that I've gone my entire life without resorting to violence, but then I remembered all the spankings I've doled out. I wonder if your pacifist aquaintance believed in the rod of discipline, and if so, how he would justify it.

Stephen Morse said...

THanks for giving us another example of rightly dividin the Word. I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations like that, regardless of the topic. This week it is not pacifism but deacons.
How often do we hear phrases like 'I just really 'feel' like bla bla bla deacons bla bla bla' or 'I hear what you're saying the Bible says but that's just your interpretation' or 'I've just always been taught bla bla bla turn the other cheek bla bla bla'?
Phil, your dialogue looks like Mark 4:26-29. I love it. The Lord has been working in our church to make this passage it's evangelistic focus. We simply want to 'throw the word' in every covnersation and let God bring about the growth. Thank you.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

As someone who carries “heat” to work, I really appreciate the post. Once terrorism in America becomes more prevalent (and I think it will), more people will be faced with the decision to apply for concealed handgun licenses (in accord with Rom 13, Joe), they will be forced to deal with how they would respond in various scenarios, and then we will have to revisit this issue again on a more realistic level.

Phil Johnson said...


Most governments—ours included—implicitly delegate the power of the sword to citizens for self-defense against violent criminals. Whether the use of a gun is legal or not varies from state to state. (As they say, don't mess with Texas.)

In every case I know of in the US where it's legal to use a gun in self-defense, it's also morally justifiable. Again, biblically, I would see that as the implicit delegation of the state's Romans 13 power to its individual citizens in special circumstances.

badbrad said...

Great post on another challenging topic. I guess my concern is that in some ways we seem to think that because we as Americans support a war it must be just and therefore God is with us. What is really lacking is what defines a just war. Dr. Greg Bahnsen once addressed this issue during Desert Storm by stating that a just war is only won in which a nation is directly attacked. I know of a puritan pastor's sermon at the beginning of the War of Independence that a defensive war to protect a nation and families is just before God, using Nehemiah and Romans 13 as his proof texts. But what about an offensive war? I am not saying that a preemptive war to attack a known enemy or a offensive attack on a nation that obviously has attacked or his harboring terrorists (Afghanistan for instance) is wrong, but are we applying true biblical reasoning to all situations before determining that we are acting justly? Or are we simply acting according to our own self interests and just judging for ourselves that God must be for us.

Renee said...

Wow, interesting exchnage. Although parts of it made me want to puke (the pacifist mentality), you did give me some good points to discuss the next time I am in a similar conversation. (Being a Christian, former military and Black, I am often asked about my take on war and criminal issues that currenlty plague our communities). I'm more intertested in what scripture says and using that to point out facts.

Thanks again for a lively, informative exchange.

Michael Russell said...

Perhaps you haven't taken your position far enough. You wrote:

"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."

While not accomplishing the latter, God certainly caused untold civilian casualties in Sodom, the promised land, and elsewhere in His pogroms - inflicted by human armies and agencies - against His enemies. Perhaps we are a bit too squeamish about the death of "innocents"?

The Apocalypse also records the death of millions. Do you hold that there are truly neutral people in this spiritual warfare?

LeeC said...

I would hesistate to put our own wars on an equal level with Gods judgement. Much like the flood in the instances you cite God is simply bringing His just judgement upon them.

I would posit that there is a vast difference.

Sharad Yadav said...

I sympathize with Joe's comments here and tend to think that the perspective reflected in this post blithely overlooks some notoriously knotty theological considerations in the relationship of church and state.

To think that making the "individual/national" distinction in Mat. 5:39 closes the books on the issue proves to be a facile conclusion when one considers the ecclesiological import of this text. Jesus' preaching here isn't applicable only to some future age or forsaken kingdom - it's an ethic that is to characterize citizens of the kingdom of God, not just individually, but corporately. Even if this text doesn't rule out national reprisal and execution of violent justice (and I don't think it does), or the violent defense of others, it certainly does seem to rule out the use of violence for self-defense.

But this text aside, your understanding of how the church is to relate to the state glibly glides over the essential nature of the church - that is a countercultural, international community of refugees from the coming kingdom of God. The church is a preview of what the coming kingdom will be like, and a colony of this kingdom living in the present age. All of the passages which speak of beating swords into plowshares and nations no longer rising against nation is prefigured in the church in which there is no Jew, Gentile, Scythian, barbarian, slave, free etc. The peace that our King brings to His subjects is a political peace amongst one another as well as a peace with God in this work of reconciliation, and we therefore testify against the powers and principalities of the idolatrous nations of the world which destroy men through false ideologies and their willingness to kill in advancing them. Moreover the community of Christ are called to embody an ethic of sacrificial love on their behalf, to invite them into this kingdom of God's beloved Son and out of the kingdom of darkness where sin and death reign. This isn't just a "spiritual" kingdom in the sense that it's only "in our hearts" - Christ rules a body of people who submit to Him in and His decrees, which makes loyalty to Him over against the fallen powers an act of real political commitment.

Romans 13 does give government the responsibility to judge sin and restrain evil with the sword - but this is in contrast (not confluence) with what Paul says about how to treat our enemies in Ro. 12. In one sense we have two very different realms of jurisdiction - the government has been given authority to execute criminals. The Church is given the authority to heap burning coals on their heads and love them unto death in a cross-bearing fashion. This doesn't tie our hands to act in the defense of another; but it does constrain us to not defend ourselves.

Read the article I posted at the TMS alumni page and get a taste for what I'm saying here. Too often the rhetoric of American Christianity retains the appearance of biblical authority while the politics of Christianity are defined more by pagan political theory than by Jesus and Paul. The influences of democracy on Christianity since the second great awakening has had the effect of privatizing Christianity to death, separating "spiritual" from "political" in Enlightenment fashion, and reducing its political and global claims to marginalized otherworldly concerns as if He only saves from Hell and not sin, and as if He's lord of your "heart" and not all the nations of the world.

Sharad Yadav said...

By the way, I've reflected on this issue in some previous posts on Soylent Green ; once in a book review on two excellent books written by pacifists and another good one written by a just war advocate. Both can be found together at a post on the TMS alumni page.

Scribe said...

Nice straw man you have set up.

Most Christians who are labelled "pacifists" are not radical, but conservative in their application of Rom 13:4, while also being mindful of Mt 5. In a society where gun violence is an epidemic, and where our government feels free to pre-emptively invade other countries, the church needs to speak prophetically that violence is not a suitable response in almost any situation. The fetishizing of weapons and warfare is incompatible with Christian peacemaking - unless of course you live in Florida, where one can now shoot first and ask questions later.

SJ Camp said...


Thank you dear brother,

Brad Huston said...

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. -Romans 13:1-6

Phil, with the whole passage in context here (I bolded verse four) you would also have to admit that the passage isn't just of the believer who carries “the sword” but applies to even of wicked Nero, who was emperor at the times of Paul's writing, who could very well have been used as God's instrument though he was certainly mad. The passage’s focus seems to be centered on the believer's submission to authority, not self-defense.

Certainly this is a good lesson for us to heed today as the church currently has many problems in the area of submission (ironically I just wrote about this yesterday in relation to women pastors) but my issue with your exegesis of verse four is in consideration of authority and submission. After all, Christ did say: give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s. These things do not say, however, that it is our role is to favor the politics behind a certain war, nor of the necessarily supporting war itself. It appears that you have stretched the context of Paul’s words concerning the submission of authority into the support and justification of war and personal self-defense. Personally, I think the church is far too concerned with temporal conflicts (i.e. politics) of this world, rather than the greater spiritual one that is being waged. In other words, I think we have taken gross liberties when it comes to Scriptures to justify all kinds of conflict, including vengeance. Now does this mean I oppose the war on terror (defense through a good offense) or the self-defense of my family, no, the opposite in fact is true. That said, I do have enough faith in the God I serve that He will protect me and my family – which is a critical point that seems to be missing from this post. Anyway, I’m just saying that I don’t think Paul’s words here can be taken to the extent that you seem to be stretching it. You may now smack me around as usual. ;o)


John R. said...


The Castle Doctrine re-established in Florida is a good thing.

I don't know about making a fetish out of guns, but there is one instance, just one, just one instance, again just one (do I make my point?) where Jesus said to sell your extra coat and by a sword.

That statement makes authors of commentaries spin in the wind, but I think that Jesus was just telling us that absolute pacifism (I don't know of a spectrum of pacifism--maybe its out there. Seems that you're a pacifist or you aren't) is not His requirement.

A complete perspective is always needed.

We are to be peacemakers, but if someone wants to attack my precious family, I am not going to fall back on some idealistic pap that violence is not a proper response to almost any situation. I'll be as preemptive as I can be, and it's gonna get ugly.

BTW, I believe that the "epidemic" of gun violence is due to drugs and gangs (sin). Not the mere presence of firearms.

Sharad Yadav said...


The majority consensus interpretation of Luke 22:36 sees Jesus' words as figurative (you're headed for harcore opposition, so be prepared to meet it), demonsrated by the fact that when the disciples actually go out and purchase swords He says, "It is enough (22:38)!" (i.e. "stop this nonsense!) -- this is consistent with Jesus' rebuke of Peter when he actually USED the sword he had to defend Jesus, and with His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount which calls those persecution a "blessing".

C.A.M. said...


Sometimes well-meaning people confuse pacifism and biblical nonresistance. The former eschews all use of force by anyone, while the latter recognizes the role of governments to use force to keep order and punish evil.

Please see these articles.

Your blog is very well done.

Joe said...

I am not a complete pacifist. I believe war is necesary sometimes, but I like the attitude of men like Archibald Alexander who mourn violence and war, but understand it is sometimes required. I get the feeling that a lot of the Christian I read are glibly pro-war, and get their jollys out of carrying a gun when they go to Wal-Mart.

Personally, I think we are trying to squeeze something out of Rom 13 that isn't there when we argue it allows us to kill an intruder.

Nevertheless, I do believe sometimes you have to protect, defend, and fight.

I do have a question though. If a man would fight to the death to protect himself, and his family, should a Christian resist persecution with the same force?

LeeC said...

I would say that there is a big difference between defending oneself, and defending ones family, and I would not be quick to say that we should not defend ourselves.

We are authorities in our homes and we have a resonsibility for our families protection. We must be able to make an account to the Lord in regards to how we have done this.

There is a big difference between being willing to be fed to the lions, and being willing to let the BTK killer assault your family.

But I would agree that as Christians we should not be sanguine.

Sharad Yadav said...

It's probably also apropos to point out that many who advocate a just war perspective are hopelessly unfamiliar with both in bello and ad bellum requirements of just war, at least in their Augustinian expression. Modern rhetoric about war and its justification often uses the language of the Augustinian tradition while misconstruing and misapplying the historic Christian conception of it. The war in Iraq, according to strict Just War principles, is not a just war. The targeting of civillian populations (commonplace by western liberal democracies since World War II) is unjust and unchristian. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were manifestly evil according to the just war tradition. Justifying the murder of civilians by calculating the possible lives lost had "the bomb" not been used is a distortion of Christian reflection on the Augustinian requirements. The nationalism that runs through the blood of evangelicalism can be blinding at best and the most sinister kind of compromise at worst. It's ironic that many people won't fellowship with Charismatic, "emergent" or "seeker sensitive" Christians for fear of "identifying with error", but still have no problem going to the Republican national convention or indentifying themselves with pagan political conservatism.

We agree that the ideology of "terrorism" needs to be confronted (primarily with the Gospel, remember? You're the CHURCH, not the "authorities"), but somehow the pagan, non-theological accounts of democratic republicanism, nationalistic idolatry, capitalism and neo-conservative foreign policy should go uncriticized by the church? Gag me with a flagpole.

Momo said...

Exactly how much courage does it take to beat up on pacifists?

(big grin)

CSB said...

I disagree with this post. Big time.

puritanicoal said...

"...when in reality if the scoundrel gets his brains blown out his left nostril while in the process of molesting a little girl..."

Good post. I agree fully with the underlying issue, but not necessarily the tone.

I was involved in a drug bust some years ago. Those manufacturing and selling the drugs were the absolute dregs of society, dabbling not only in drugs, but in child pornography to support their habit and business. During the bust, a career police officer was justifiably forced to kill one of these people. He dealt with the grief from that for years, and I never once heard him refer to "blowing the guy's brains out," which is, quite literally, what happened.

I believe that killing anyone, even Osama Bin Laden, is something that should be done with the greatest of respect. No matter how vile, he is still a human being created by God, and it is our grenade that will end his earthly life, with no further chance of repentance. Even God gave Israel the chance to repent from offering children as sacrifices.

Phil, I don't think you are bragging about blowing anyone's brains out. I just wanted to bring out the point that taking life, under any circumstances, is serious business, as I am sure you would agree. (So, calm down, those of you out there steaming by now).

Apart from Christ, we ALL deserve much worse than having our brains blown out.

(By the way, in Texas, when a person is executed, the cause of death on the death certificate is listed as "homicide." Interesting, huh?)

Sled Dog said...

I currently pastor a church in which the denomination has the doctrine of non-resistence in their statement of faith. Yet, our church is all over the map in regards to this issue. In fact, one of our elders is in the military.

When I came to the church ,I went to a denominational "new pastors" orientation, and they had sent a few of their seminarians to talk to us about the non-resistance issue (in other words, try to convince us of their stance). Most of the new pastors were bothered by the fact that non-resistence appears to be more a matter of conscience, and really doesn't belong as part of a doctrinal statement. One pastor who had grown up in Russia expressed his deep sense of the value of freedom, and that freedom was worth defending.

One old-timer in our church refused to let his son play high school football on the basis of this type of teaching.

The Scriptures tell us that "as long as it depends on us, to be at peace with all men." Peace is a good thing. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We should pursue it whenever possible. But the idea that a person can't defend themself, their family, their property makes no sense to me.

Sharad Yadav said...

Wow, puritanicoal - thanks for the sober admonition. I'm so thankful that God has ordained the restraint of evil through His appointed authorities. I have to admit that I have a difficult time figuring out the line that separates the responsibilities and priviliges of the church as citizens of a different order from that of the community of those dead in Adam under the fallen powers ruled by the god of this world -- but regardless of these theological complexities, I know I can thank God for the physical saftey and protection my local law enforcement provides.

Out of curiosity, do you ever feel conflict with being a police officer and at the same time being responsible to embody Christian ethics? What sort of tensions are created by being involved in that sort of environment? Feel free to ignore the question if its too personal, but I'd be interested to know.

puritanicoal said...

BlueRaja - I'm not a police officer. At the time, I was a cameraman for a TV News station. Moreover, I don't understand the basis of your theological quandary.

By the way, my wife and I both are pacifists. None of our kids ever sucked their thumbs.

Sled Dog said...

Following up Puritanicoal's comment: "I agree fully with the underlying issue, but not necessarily the tone."

Interesting, I really do agree with much, if not most, of what Phil proposes theologically, but I often disagree with how he says it.

Phil Johnson said...

I feel so invalidated.

puritanicoal said...

That's because you probably sucked your thumb, not being a pacifist, and all.....

Sled Dog said...


You forgot to put a "JN" after your post!

Hey, it's just my opinion. I just feel that sometimes a good point is lost in the hyperbole and bravado. Sometimes a whisper is just as effective as scream.

Sled Dog said...

This may not be the place for it, but what the hey...

And speaking of non-pacifists, what's with Campi's new blog moniker: Sledgehammer??? I mean, I know Jesus called Peter "The Rock," but I don't think the intention was that he go around banging on stuff or people!!! (that's what Peter did BEFORE the Holy Spirit cane in Acts 2!)

puritanicoal said...

Sled dog - My guess is to take a look at the other half of Jeremiah 23:29....

Sharad Yadav said...

Thanks for the repy, puritanicoal. I'm not sure where the thumbsucking became relevant, but I'm glad your kids aren't in the habit. My son sucks my thumbs, which I hope to put a stop to before he's 18. I take your general agreement with Phil's post to mean that you're not really pacifists (and I'm not sure if I am or not), but a good place to start in order to understand the theological quandry is "The Politics of Jesus" by John Howard Yoder. There's much to be learned in that volume whether or not you adopt his pacifism, but it's a particularly strong case for it, anyway.

LeeC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott Hill said...

If someone were beating my kid in the school yard he has been instructed to fight back, but I better not find out he started it.

If someone attacks my family or breaks into my home then he/she had better be able to defend themselves from me.

If I am wrong then I will ask for forgiveness at the judgement. Please no diatribes on what will actually take place a the judgement it is just an analogy.

Sharad Yadav said...


I just want to validate you right now, because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you! Now, let's get back to invalidating each other . . .

Scott Hill said...

Does anyone have a really good example of when a whisper is "just" as effective as a scream. (telling someone to zip their fly does not count)

Kay said...

So, I'm curious.. Pat Robertson? Where do his recent comments come on the scale, in light of all this?

Sled Dog said...

For the record, my comment about whispers vs. screams was not in relation to pacifism, but rather was in regards to effective communication.

Away From The Brink said...


Listing the cause of death for an executed criminal as "homicide" is perfectly accurate. The term "homicide" simply means that the cause of death was at the hand of another human.

That is in contradistinction to murder, which is an illegal killing of another, with malice aforethought.

Sharad Yadav said...

I think what puritanicoal was getting at is the incalculable gravity of taking another man's life, even in a state authorized way.

The word 'homicide" is associated with how heinous it is for a man to take the life of another, and because it is usually used in contexts of murder (though manslaughter, self-defense or even accidental death can also be legally described as homicide) it summons some of the appropriate emotions of reluctance and grief in having to carry it out.

Or maybe he misspoke.

farmboy said...

Given the entrenched, expansive, bureaucratic state we encounter in the modern day United States of America (and elsewhere throughout the world), it is reasonable and logical that we think of the state as an autonomous entity, separate and distinct from the citizens. This was not the case during the first seventy-five years, or so, of the USA. The powers of the federal government were effectively limited by the Constitution, and the ability to vote with one’s feet effectively limited the powers of state governments. During this era the American experiment of limited government under law worked relatively well, with government being accurately characterized as being of the people, by the people, and for the people.

How does the above effect our understanding the proper discharge of state powers (in this case, state sanctioned aggression)? During this founding era there was no distinction between the citizens and the state; the citizens were the state. The armed forces were composed of citizen soldiers (the modern day equivalent would be an armed force composed exclusively of National Guard units). The relatively few paid lawmen (sheriffs, marshals and such) were routinely supplemented with citizens who were deputized. Local courts tired cases and handed out sentences (with death sentences being carried out locally). Here, when the state carried out aggression it was also the case that citizens were carrying out aggression.

Now, if Scripture sanctions the state carrying out aggression when the state is an autonomous, distinct entity, does it also sanction the state carrying out aggression when the state is effectively the sum of the citizens? If so, when a man carries out aggression as a citizen soldier, a deputy sheriff or a juror, how different is this from the same man carrying out aggression to defend his household? Aren’t they all examples of men maintaining order? If Scripture ordains that man is to be the protector of and provider for his household, defending his wife and children falls within his protector responsibilities. However, a man defending himself allows him to continue in his role as provider. Thus, is self defense properly bound up in a man’s responsibility to provide in the present and continue to provide in the future for his household? (While it’s true that God is the ultimate protector and provider, He often provides through mundane means, means such as a man that effectively protects and provides for his household.)

Just as the state may be properly categorized as the sum of its citizens, what of the Church? Is the church an autonomous distinct entity, or is the church the sum of God’s redeemed children (Christians, the Church’s citizens)? During the founding era of the USA not all USA citizens were Christians, but all Christians (citizens of the Church) were also citizens of the USA. So, Scripture sanctions the state carrying out aggression; the state is effectively the sum of its citizens; and all Christians (citizens of the Church) are also USA citizens. Does it follow, then, that Scripture sanctions Christians in carrying out aggression?

john o'keefe said...

i wonder, have you ever read what a pacifist stands for? your "conversation" seemed... well, let's just say you missed the idea.

Jason Robertson said...

Invalidate this, Punk.

Radical pacifism is trully both immoral and unbiblical. I believe Lot was a pacifist, and he ended up losing his whole family and city.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I once shot a dog in the behind with a BB gun, because he kept knocking my trash cans over.
I think I could probably shoot somebody who wanted to harm my family right in the eye. Then I would turn my other cheek and shoot his other eye.

puritanicoal said...

Impacted Wisdom Tooth - I never questioned the accuracy of the listing of cause of death as "homicide." I just thought it was interesting. Made me think. That's all.

Away From The Brink said...


I did not mean to imply that you were "questioning the accuracy" of the use of "homicide" in the case you cited. I was affirming the use of homicide as an accurate term.

My apologies for the confusion.

By the way, it is Impacted Wisdom Truth.

David said...

The word homicide has nothing to do with the seriousness of the act, any more than homogenize does. It simply means inflicting death on one of the same kind. When a fish eats another fish, that is homicide. It's cannibalism, too, but I think I'm against that. Phil probably is, too, although he didn't say.

Phil Johnson said...

No, actually, I'm OK with fish that eat other fish. See last week's Monday post.

Jason Robertson said...

Maybe we should all spend some time at Scott's little getaway


for mean ol fundies like us.

Unknown said...

....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....

So what if the "collateral damage" within that 30 feet included your wife, children, mother and father? Or is it OK as long as it is someone elses loved ones?


Matt Gumm said...

Curse you, Phil Johnson. You made me stay up way too late, and I laughed until I cried and my sides hurt.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

someone said something about 'rampant gun possession' or something nonsensical.

D.C. has banned the use of ALL personal firearms.... yet they have consistently had one of the highest (and some years, THE HIGHEST) violent crime rates in the nation. I joke sometimes that DC really stands for 'District of Crime'.

Contrast that with most of PA, which is a 'right to carry' state (at least outside of Philly and Pittsburg). A friend told a story of a guy who tried to rob a store once in Lancaster (I think). The store owner pulled out a BIGGER gun from behind the counter and said "you're not from around here, are ya ?" When potential victims can protect themselves, criminals think twice.

It's cool, though. I practice throwing things (darts, knives) to make up for not having access to a firearm for protection. My accuracy is actually very good (80%) up to 60 ft. I'll be hitting the shooting range around the first of the year, though. ;)

John R. said...


My point in Christ allowing his servants to have a sword, dagger, leatherman, whatever was to show that Christ was not speaking for absolute pacifism.

I agree that violence is never to be used in the promotion of the Christian faith. When the issue of the Faith is at the heart of a situation, we are to follow the Lord's admonition to Peter.

However, I have read comments to the effect that Luke 22's allowance for a sword was simply to fight off wild animals or open the pork-n-beans can around the fire. The scriptures seem consistent in what the use of a sword is for.

I wrote about "Christian War" on my blog, and I hope that it clarifies what I'm trying to say.

Leaving at the bottom of the pile after about 60 comments...


Philip Rogers said...

I agree with Phil Johnson’s points. My main problem would be with his seeming cockiness and arrogance – which I’d also noticed previously while listening to a CD of one of his sermons. Those traits are quite inconsistent with the requirements for a Christian leader in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. (Please pardon the digression.)
In college, my good buddy John Rush (who has also commented on this posting) and I often thought we might be “missionary mercenaries” (for some reason, the Lord led in other directions – John’s a pastor in Tennessee, I’m a missionary in Chile . . . but we’re neither one mercenaries). John often quoted this wise, ancient proverb, “I think violence should be stomped out.” (By the way, even though I don’t own a gun here in Chile, I’m a member of the NRA because I appreciate its stand for freedom.)
One word of caution before I proceed: we must never confuse nationalism with Biblical Christianity. As a missionary kid and now as a missionary, I’ve spent most of my life outside of the USA; however, I’m one of the most patriotic people you’ll ever meet (my friends and family can vouch for that). I do understand, nevertheless, that Americans do not hold a monopoly on God’s grace, mercy and love.
Back to the discussion at hand: violence is countenanced – and indeed encouraged – in the Scriptures under certain circumstances. As has been noted, revenge for personal grievances is not permitted (Matthew 5:39 has already been noted; see also Romans 12:14-21, which is a very through-provoking-provoking and convicting passage).
God delegates certain authority to civil government. Part of that includes severely punishing crime. Genesis 9:6 is very clear in this regard, as is Romans 13:1-4.
On an individual level, God also allows and encourages strong action (violence) when depraved men pursue courses of unjust aggression against the weak and defenseless. Some key passages are Exodus 22:2-3 (God intends that a thief ideally, more than simply being killed, be forced to make restitution for his crimes.); Job 29:12-17 (Part of Job’s righteousness was that he delivered the defenseless out of the clutches of the unjust. Note verse 17, KJV: “I broke the fangs of the wicked, and plucked the victim from his teeth.” That’s justifiable violence.); Psalm 82:3-4 (This passages commands us to defend the innocent, weak and defenseless.); Jeremiah 22:3.
In closing, a portion of our National Anthem comes to mind:
“Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’”
Blog: http://www.newsnviewsonline.com/

Habitans in Sicco said...

Philip Rogers: "My main problem would be with his seeming cockiness and arrogance – which I’d also noticed previously while listening to a CD of one of his sermons"

Not to mention his supposed "sense of humor," which is clearly a violation of the beatitude that blesses those who mourn.

And while we're at it, his preaching voice really bugs me, too. It gets all shrill and high-pitched when he stresses a point. What's he doing stressing a point in the first place? It just reinforces the whole cocky-and-arrogant thing.

Phil Johnson is clearly an offense to everything currently in style.

Sharad Yadav said...

*Rolling my eyes*

Give it a rest, Habitans. Why not actually address some SUBSTANCE in the guy's comments . . . are all of your opinions restricted to the "sarcasm liberation patrol"?

Rose~ said...

Wow, Mr. Pyro, I read your lengthy post (but not all the comments) and I was in total agreement with your REASONING here. I myself have used that same argument with anti-war people that I know (the turn the other cheek personal/government difference).

Something I noticed - you said, in prelude to your conversation with the guy:

"After explaining why I reject his theory of the atonement..."

From the limited information above that statement, it sounded like he has NO theory of "atonement", but rather has replaced the atonement with "example-setting". Am I right or did I miss something?

BTW, I simply LOVE the graphics here ... you have inspired me to learn how to do web design.

Sled Dog said...

Hey, I can only blame myself for entering into the Pyro's domain and expecting anything different from the type of discussions that take place here. Phil has proclaimed himself a provocateur (one who provokes) and a Calvinist gadfly (a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism). Why I expect anything else is truly my own problem. It's like going into a Taco Bell and becoming upset that there aren't hamburgers on the menu. It's my fault that I saunter over here every once in a while and expect that the conversation will be gracious and winsome. I just have to remind myself...those qualities just aren't on the menu!

In regards to the whisper/scream analogy, I find that a site like LARK NEWS is much more subtle and effective at making its points. The latest issue commented on the proliferation of worship CDs, the over-application of PDL, as well as the Prayer of Jabez. The writing is extremely funny, all the while quietly driving home a point.

Susan B. said...

Great post! Needless to say, I don't have much use for pacifists and find their philosophy not only unworkable in a fallen world but also deeply immoral. Any philosophy that would let a child be raped rather than use force to stop that rape is not a philosophy of love. In other words, pacifism is *unloving*.

And, as a Floridian and a dreaded gun owner, I pray that I never need to defend myself or my family from an intruder. However, it's good to know that I would be able to do so if necessary without being labeled a criminal.

Sharad Yadav said...

Susan b.,

I'm not necessarily a pacifist, but to say that you don't have "much use for them" is foolish. Not only does being a pacifist NOT preclude someone from being a Christian (presumably you've got some use for them), but God's given you a "use" for every stripe of unbeliever too; here are just a few: a) to humble you by reminding you what you are, a sinner with no merits of your own b) to provide you opportunity to offer the saving love of Christ and c) to give you the privilige of displaying the grace of your God thereby bringing Him honor. That's not really something that can be said of any human being on the planet.

You should probably note that though it was far from a consensus, many people in the early church were pacifists. Do you have any use for men like Tertullian and Clement? In the confines of pagan ethics this might seem like a silly issue by crack-pot liberals. But in the realm of Christian ethics it has been a controversial issue since the second century with wonderful Christian men on both sides of the issues, and most positions lay in between the poles of jihad and spineless passivity. Many people who oppose pacifism and advocate a just war position still eschew violence for self-defense, and only see it as lawful in the defense of another (which removes your "moral" objection).

Alan Grey said...

Great post. I am not a pacifist and also feel the pacifist position is not a moral one.

I never thought about how governments, with their God given authority to use the sword, actually implicitly transfer that authority to people for purposes of self-defence. That was a great insight, so thank you.

One thing I disagree with however, is that dropping of the atomic bombs on japan was justified because it brought a quick end to the war. Don't get me wrong, I used to think this as well, but have since changed my mind.

The end's does not justify the means. The civilian deaths were not collateral damage or unlucky side event, but an intergral part of the dropping of those bombs. The direct targeting of civilians by a weapon of mass destruction can never be considered a christian option.

the bloke said...

Phil, I am not comfortable with a few things you said here. Since the conversation is so long, I am just posting a comment to you after reading your post, and I also wrote a response post over at my blog. I shall now try to see what kind of conversation has been going on over here on this issue.

Here is my post: http://intheouter.net/2005/10/06/some-thoughts-about-just-war-and-pacificism/