22 October 2005

Pacifism and Christian warfare

...Summing up

It should be clear by now that I oppose strict pacifism in principle.

I especially object to the jejune and naive types of "Christian pacifism" that try to turn Matthew 5:39 ("resist not evil") into a rigid absolute—making a wooden, literal interpretation of that text (and its cross-references) the controlling hermeneutical principle for the New Testament while canonizing non-violence as the supreme moral value.

To recap: In matters of national defense and criminal justice, "the sword" (a biblical expression for the use of deadly force) is sometimes an appropriate remedy against evildoers, and rulers who use the sword rightly do so as God's ministers for good (Romans 13:3-4). Moreover, when the government implicitly delegates authority to an individual for wielding the sword in self-defense, he has every moral right to use force.

Moving on...

On the other hand, I can't think of a single instance in which it would be appropriate for the church or her leaders to bear a sword or use violent means of any kind as part of their ministry. Although Christian life and ministry are often portrayed in Scripture as warfare, it's not a war against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Paul is saying that Christian warfare is not a carnal battle. It's not a battle for lands and cities. It's not a personal conflict against other people. It's a battle for the truth.

Biblical Christianity is not and never has been like Islam, spreading its influence at the point of a sword or with threats of force or acts of terrorism. Although history includes several sad episodes of wars and crusades and inquisitions that have been carried out by men who claimed to be acting in the name of Christ, that has never been the tactic by which the true church has sought to increase her influence.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. In the words of Spurgeon, "For the church of God ever to avail itself of force would be clean contrary to the spirit of Christianity: for the Christian bishop to become a soldier, or employ the secular arm [of military force], would seem the very climax of contradiction. A warrior ambassador is a dream of folly."

So Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 10 that he is not talking about the actual use of force. He's at war, but it is not a carnal war. It's a spiritual conflict. This is not a battle over territory, but a fight for the minds and hearts of people.

Next week, I want to take up this subject of spiritual warfare and examine the context of 2 Corinthians 10:5 carefully. I hope to relate our duty in spiritual warfare to the issues of pacifism and militancy. Should be a lively discussion.

Odds 'n' ends

Not desiring to delve too much into the sort of self-referential, solipsistic specifics that send CenturiOn into spasms, I nonetheless need to inform my readers of a few changes I have planned for PyroManiac:

  1. I'll no longer be doing the regular "Monday Menagerie" posts. These have proved to be too labor-intensive for my weekends.
  2. Instead, I'll try to format one or two Spurgeon items for The Spurgeon Archive each weekend, and Monday's post will feature a pithy excerpt from that week's sermon or article. This will also maximize the use of my time and help me in the process of adding Spurgeon material to my Web site.
  3. From time to time, I'll make a special post in the genre of the old "Monday Menagerie" items. I do enjoy writing those, but once a week is simply too much to promise. It was becoming a perfect ball and chain.
  4. Yes, I really am having a few die-cut vinyl bumper stickers made from my new logo. Unfortunately, they are too expensive to produce in large numbers. They're going to be hard to come by. I'll have to devise a contest or something to give a few of them away. Suggestions would be appreciated.


Chris Meirose said...

Take orders and sell them! It worked for the Jollyblogger anyhow...

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

Mike Perrigoue said...

How 'bout giving the bumper stickers to those that are first to make a comment on your posts?

I was so close!

Stephen Thomas said...

Phil, (or Mr. Johnson, I should say since I don't know you personally, but since people always taking blogs so personally, I am not sure if there even is a proper etiquette...)

Anyway. Since you're planning on putting some Spurgeon related stuff on your blog, I'm going to make a Spurgeon related request! I am interested in seeing hymns that Spurgeon wrote. Those would be short enough to put in blogs. What do you think?

Steve said...

Why not sell a signed PyroManiac sticker on eBay and use the proceeds to help a specific church, pastor, or seminary affected by Hurricane Katrina? Or some other cause you feel strongly about?

Jeremy Weaver said...

How about you sell one of them to each blogger whose name is 'Doxoblogist'?

MTG said...

Perhaps you could sell one to one of your not so verbose readers....me. :)

Brad Huston said...

Yes, I really am having a few die-cut vinyl bumper stickers made from my new logo. Unfortunately, they are too expensive to produce in large numbers. They're going to be hard to come by. I'll have to devise a contest or something to give a few of them away. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Well, you could have them signed an numbered. Perhaps you could consider becoming the Thomas Kinkade of the blogosphere :o)


Greg Linscott said...

Sell them? Bah!

Phil, you would be much better off accepting suggested donations to PyroManiac, and then giving the bumper stickers as gifts of appreciation...

...either that, or make them an elite item available only at select outlets, such as Manolios Lectro-pawn.

Good to have you back in the blogosphere.

Chris said...

With things liske stickers, they actually become cheaper per sticker the more you print. The biggest cost is getting the custom die itself cut. After that it makes sense to print as many as you can.

For example, I checked out one company at random and to print off 125 stickers it would cost over $7.00 a sticker. Print off 1,000 and its down to just under $1.00. Go for 10,000 and it costs $0.13 a sticker (that's with the cost of the custom die included).

You could sell them for $5 and give the proceeds to somthing like Steve suggested. I'd buy one.

David said...

Selling the stickers and donating the profit is a good suggestion. However, shameless capitalist that I am, I don't think there would be anything wrong with putting it in your pocket, either. After all, Peccadillos don't go to college for free.

Phil Johnson said...

I realize, of course, that the cost per sticker goes down if you buy in larger quantities. But I checked several vendors with good reputations, and the cost savings don't really kick in till you order a thousand or more. Even in those quantities, they're at least $1.00 per bumper sticker, and I didn't have $1,000 that I wanted to devote to such a grossly narcissistic project. So I've ordered a hundred at approximately $2.50 apiece. (My hypocrisy is such that cheap narcissism doesn't trouble me as much as the costly kind.)

I'm not going to sell them, because I don't want any hint of commercialism on my Web site. I've never used The Spurgeon Archive, The Hall of Church History, my bookmarks, or any of my websites to sell anything or raise money for me. The occasional "ad" I feature at The Spurgeon Archive is always a gratis link to some book (or other product) related to Spurgeon. I receive no revenue for those links (ever), and the space is not for sale. I refuse to commercialize the site, which is purely a labor of love for me.

So as a matter of principle I've always resisted the idea of selling t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.--even though I might do a tidy business on the side.

I may in fact do that or something like it when I retire if I need extra income. But for now, I'm keeping it commercial-free and gimmick-free. So the bumper stickers probably won't be for sale. What I'm trying to think of is a way for interested people to earn or otherwise compete for one of them.

Kay said...

How about a frozen meat combat tournament?

Udarnik said...

I've dabbled in pacifism, but Romans 13, Bonhoeffer's account of working through the dilemma and the thought that I, or the magistrate, could stand by if my personal friends / brothers in Uganda were getting cut down "Rwanda style," have driven me to be a "sorta pacifist." I'll always be conflicted, but I need to steel myself for personal martyrdom or, on the other hand, decisive action in defense of or on behalf of those being destroyed.

Right on, though, Phil. The thought of advancing the faith at the point of the sword is abhorrent.

Chris Freeland said...

Maybe you could manufacture silicon bracelets that say "pyro strong" or something... Everyone else is doing it.

I'm sorry you won't be doing the Monday lingerie posts any more. Those were my favorites. But I can see how they'd be time consuming. I guess I'll just check out pecadillo on Mondays.

Daniel said...

I'll have to devise a contest or something to give a few of them away. Suggestions would be appreciated.

How about a hymn writing contest? Not the music mind you, just the poem part.

You could create a few categories (after the fact of course) by which you distribute awards - suggestsion: Most edifying, most witty, most clever use of the word "supralapsarian" - whatever...

People could post their hymns on their own blogs with a key word "Pyropoem" or something to make blogspotting easy - and the end effect is that Christians, whether they win or lose, can edify one another through the effort.

marc said...


I've taken Phil's Logo and produced a number of bumber stickers and static-cling window decals, as well as a a nifty PYROMANIAC ON BOARD sign. I'm also creating a post card series based on the Pecadillo Birthday pics.

And yes we're lookinging into a bumper sticker that says "You can have my tube of frozen meat when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers".

I'll be selling them over at PURGATORIO. You can use PAYPAL or mail me a money order.
Quantity disounts are available as well.

All proceeds go to me, not Phil. I want to avoid all hints of commercialism.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Maybe a contest of theological essays?

Steve said...

Well, Phil, here's another suggestion. I actually thought of this back when I had the "eBay for a good cause" idea, but the idea seemed rather subjective and unspecific, but here goes.

How 'bout you give out a sticker when someone writes a comment that just plain inspires you and causes you to say, "That's good," or "I wish I'd written that" (which probably means Steve Hays is a cinch to win a sticker because you like his writing so much). Sure, that leaves the rules pretty subjective and arbitrary. But...it might be more meaningful that way.

After all, if you simply base it on who does the 50th post or something like that, you're gonna get a lot of deadwood posts from people running up the counter.

Glad you have no intention of profiting from your Internet endeavors. I've always appreciated John's stance on the same matter regarding his books and speaking.

Phillip M. Way said...

give them out like awards for great blog posts! "Look, I won a Pyro for my excellent blog entry!!!"

You could post winners with a link to their winning blog entries and send them a sticker - then they could put a picture of the sticker up on their site, proudly showing the world that they did something that impressed Phil Johnson!!


Aspiring Girl said...

Hey phil,
i talked to you last sunday about working for TBN- i have a joey thought for you.
Commenting on your blog about warfare and christian pacifism- Didn't Jesus state that narrow is the way to heaven? And how difficult it was to get in- that you had to fight for it? Isn't that what he implied in Matt 11:12?
I agree with you- what do you think of this particular passage?
by the way- i love gracelife :-)

dogpreacher said...

I will second the motion by Daniel...Theological poems/hymns!

The DOGpreacher

Bhedr said...

Intresting and that you mentioned Islam. We just had a seminar on it today here at Lake Gaston Baptist(S.B.C-not militant fundie anymore)
Given by Abidan Shah from India. His father who was tormented and mugged in the streets for comming out of Islam and confessing Christ. A powerful testimony. Anyway he mentioned the Crusades but then went on to mention Charles Martel who held off the Moors in 732 A.D.
Sometimes you do have to weild the Sword in defense. Of course what the Crusaders did was trying to seize the Kingdom of God and spread it converting men at sword point. A reflection of Constantines heart. It serves as a model to what many men thought was the proper way to convert, which is the greivious error found in Padeo Baptism and its follow up in State Church ism. Militant fundyism seeks to do the same thing. You cannot convert at sword point or by any earthly means. I don't know why this is so hard to see. I've got better odds at convincing a dead corpse of this. I find some positions a dichotomy of sorts.

Scott Hill said...

While I could see that you might feel inclined to send a bumper sticker to all those who made it into the "STELLAR" category of your blogroll. Those of us at Fide-O ask with all humility that you send them to the less fortunate bloggers, so that their meager bloglife might be brightened if just for a brief Pyro-moment.

Smiley face colon/parenthesis and all that jazz.

Anonymous said...


Awesome job this morning on the history of Calvinism! You are quite the animal, and thank goodness there are some out there (dangling like a piece of animal skin seems to be the trend for most people)... better to be the animal than the prey, huh?

Kim said...

Why don't you have take another hiatus and award the bumper stickers to randomly selected commenter numbers? A bumper sticker for commenter number 5, one for commenter number 100...

I kind of liked libbie's idea, too.

LegoVires said...

Look I don't think I'll ever come up with a theo post or poem that'll make anybody's mouth fall open reading. (except to scream shutup)

So-o I'll opt for shameless begging.
Hey Phil I'm your biggest fan. Really!
You're too much for this crowd! Did you ever think about a variety show on Saturday evenings?
Now can I have a bumper sticker? Can I?

MacArthurFan said...

Nope , sorry, I'm phil's biggest fan!

FX Turk said...

You can have bumper stickers made at cafepress.com and let anyone who wants one buy one -- you pay nothing.

Randy said...

Wow, a great teaching on this blog about pacifism and spiritual warfare, and all you people can do is talk about bumper stickers. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
(Now that I've properly chastised them, can I get a bumper sticker?)

David said...

I'll try the honest approach.

So far, I've never disagreed with Phil on anything but his shirt. Phil and I are virtual theological twins (not identacle - I'm like Danny DeVito to his Schwarzenegger, if you remember that movie).

However, I'm not Phil's biggest fan. There are lots of people I like better. This isn't my favorite blog. I think it's too flashy. I could never write a winning theological essay or hymn. I'm a horrible poet.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
If you giving out stickers,
Just give me one, too.

See what mean? I still want a sticker.

MSC said...

How about occasional trivia quizes "Jeopardy" style in order to identify obscure Church History facts, juicy Spurgeon tidbits, odd fundamentalists or assorted arminian wackos - you know, that sort of stuff.

Anonymous said...

lol... I think your last comment needs editing, Phil... (read it closely and you'll see what I mean). ; )

Phil Johnson said...


Thanks. I hate typos.


These are quality vinyl, die-cut, colorfast appliques. Cafepress just takes a standard rectangle or oval of cheap sticker-paper and prints an image on it. I want quality.

BTW, I ordered one of your mugless mugs. The mug with your face on it just seemed a little too creepy.

Though if you could get a picture of yourself giving the thumbs-up sign and have it printed on the inside bottom of the cup, that would be cool. Everytime I drained a cup, you'd be there encouraging me. That, I'd buy.

I opted to pass on your t-shirts, too, btw. But my sidekick, Pecadillo, bought one. He said it would make a perfect bathroom rug in his new house. Given his interior decorating skills and his sense of decorum, you can take that as a profound compliment.

Hessel-Man said...

For another contest idea... what about one for manipulating or creating a comic book cover on a theme of your choosing?

You could have an additional prize (like a Jack Hyles signed Bible) for the winner(s) if their cover managed to offend a large segment of commenters.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I have discovered the perfect pacifism test to discern if you a Democrat, Republican or Southern Republican. You can view the test (a simple question) here.

bean said...

Okay - I know what the qualifications should be for the first string of bumper sticker handouts...

1. The recipient will have been Pecadillo's "ministerial resident / intern" for part of Pec's freshman and sophomore high school years.
2. Pyromaniac will have attended the recipient's 30th birthday party with special guest-hero status.
3. The recipient will have taken (and loved) your Christian Writing class at TMS.
4. The recipient owns a copy of "The Murder of Jesus", signed "Jon John" by Pecadillo.
5. The recipient will currently be shepherd to Darlene's best friend.
6. The spouse of the recipient will have worked at Grace To You under your executive directorship.
7. The recipient's blogroll has Pyromaniac and Pecadillo listed first and last, respectively (as bookends of sorts).
8. The recipient must avoid most seminars at the Shepherd's Conference but obsessively attend all seminars taught by Pyromaniac.
9. The recipient has a weird baseball / cool guy bond with "The Fantastic Daughter-In-Law's Spouse".
10. The recipient's blog must be listed in Pecadillo's "Gold Star" blog list.

I think that should narrow it down sufficiently.

Oh, and feel free to send an extra for my vehicle too. Thanks!