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.
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:
- I'll no longer be doing the regular "Monday Menagerie" posts. These have proved to be too labor-intensive for my weekends.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.