Christianity Is Not a Religion of Peace, Thank God

Ever since 9/11 — and with each new terrorist bombing — the “religion of peace” question arises.  Is Islam a religion of peace? Our recent presidential Islamic scholars — George Bush and Barack Obama — say that it is. Jihadists beg to differ. Christians scurry from the Crusades and Wars of Religion while claiming that those Christians chronicled in, say, Fox’s Book of Martyrs more accurately portray the true faith. Jews elide over the Canaanite conquest, and Buddhists proudly trade on their American reputation for calm, and peacefulness — helped immeasurably by the Dalai Lama.

It’s as if all the religions of the world must answer to the true god, the god of peace. The most peaceful religion is, what?  True? Is peacefulness the measure of truth?

I follow Christ because I believe He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” not because he’s the most opposed to war of any leading religious figure. Indeed, Christ is not categorically opposed to war.

This is the Christ that many are familiar with:

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

Meet the Lamb that was slain, God’s holy Son — subject to the monstrous injustice of crucifixion — obedient to God’s purpose for His life on Earth.

This is also Christ:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

Meet the Heavenly Warrior, the Conquering Lord, obedient to God’s purpose in imposing justice and judgment.

In reading and reconciling both of these accounts of Christ, I’m reminded of the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes: there is “a time for war and a time for peace.”

It is the challenge of the Christian — using the guidance of God’s word — to discern the times.

For the German Christian, as Hitler gained power and beat the drums of war, it was a time for peace — a time to call their fellow citizens to choose a different path. Then, as Hitler tightened his grip on power and launched a the most terrible conflict the world has ever seen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew it was a time for war, and he plotted to kill the great tyrant.

For the American Christian, June 6, 1944, was the very essence of a time for war, when the efforts and prayers of a generation of American believers focused on names that will live in history — Omaha Beach, Dog Red Sector — and Christian kids fought with ferocity against a great evil.

Martin Luther King had the discernment to know that the 1950s and 1960s were a time for peace, for nonviolent resistance that would turn the heart of a nation. Joshua Chamberlain, by contrast, commanding the 20th Maine on July 2, 1863, on a hill called Little Round Top, knew the time for war had come and famously ordered his exhausted and bloody men to fix bayonets and recklessly charge into the teeth of the Confederate advance.

A commitment to peace — regardless of circumstance — can empower monstrous evil.  A commitment of war — regardless of circumstance — can impose monstrous evil.

While we eagerly await the ultimate peace of the Kingdom of Heaven, we live in the fallen, broken world. And I thank God that He has called and empowered men — in the right times and right places — to draw the sword to fight back against the worst and most vicious wrongdoers — to impose a measure of justice and, yes, peace on Earth.

  • Brantley Gasaway

    Yes, yes, David, we can all prooftext.

    Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52)

    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)

    Most egregious, your Niebuhrian concession that we cannot start embodying the peaceable kingdom of God right now allows Christians to justify all kinds of violence in the name of, as you say, “imposing justice and judgment.” I notice that you didn’t praise those Christian sons of the Confederacy who also believed, after much prayer, that they were fighting in a just war.

    Of course you’re in the just war majority–but we Anabaptists will fight (um, I mean, nonviolently resist) these arguments.

    • David French

      You Anabaptists will nonviolently resist our arguments, and we “just war” Christians will fight (violently) to defend you from those who would do you harm :)

      • Brantley Gasaway

        Ok, I feel safer now :)

        You’re probably already familiar with this, but I think that our respective traditions can unite in saying that God has called us to be active peacemakers–and the work of Glen Stassen and others on “just peacemaking” offers, in my opinion, a useful place for us to come together.

        • David French

          By the way, Brantley, is it just me or are Anabaptists disproportionately represented amongst Patheos readers?

          • Brantley Gasaway

            I don’t normally think so, but we couldn’t tell by reactions to your post. For what it’s worth, I do think these responses point to the fact that your post–in isolation–comes across as “pro-war” rather than the position of just war theorists who view war with reluctance and as an absolute last resort. I’ve read enough of your stuff to think you probably mean that, but I’d encourage you to make sure you have those qualifications front and center (assuming that you hold them).

            But, of course, I also think these responses point to the fact that the BIBLICAL evidence for just war theory is just not very strong :)

          • jdamico

            I suppose you are using “ana-baptist” as a term to cover all people who dont necessarily argree with american foreign policy/people who believe God is love? Im not an actual anabaptist, I just believe the words of Jesus.

      • JoFro

        Is it me or do you only find the “Pacifist Christians” living in countries where they are surrounded by “Just War Christians”?

        Where are the Amish and the Anabaptists in Islamic-majority countries?

        And what will be the fate of their communities as the Islamic advance into the formerly Christian West continues unabated and the “Just War Christians” are mocked and treated like hypocrites by them?

        If “Pacifist Christians” wish to know their fate, go look at the Christians living under Islamic dominion or read the un-PC version of living like a dhimma!

    • http://peaceegalitarianism.blogspot.com/ Brian Bowman

      The Anabaptists are correct that Jesus taught “non-resistance.” Yet they too often ignore Jesus’ teaching on how achieve non-resistance: abdication of abstract property rights. In other words, “sell all you have and give to the poor.”

      The Mennonite farmer’s plowshare is the whole reason for the sword.

      Anthropologists agree: “Agriculture creates government.” [Richard Manning (2005) Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization, p. 73]

      Mennonite theologian Ched Myers also argues the same point—agriculture leads warfare—in his two essays, “The Fall” and “Anarcho-primitivism and the Bible.” [Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (2008) Continuum.]

      • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

        There is actually more of a consistent anabaptist witness to ‘non-violent resistance’. Notice on the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus is not saying, ‘let them’ in the response the violent act. e.g. “If someone hits you on the right cheek… do nothing.” Jesus is not teaching passivity or nonresistance, which is inaction.

        Jesus is offering a creative, culturally relevant responses to our aggressors. Christ followers do not stand by and do nothing. Christ-followers engage injustice through love, witness, spirit, reason, rhetoric, and if need be: martyrdom.

        • http://peaceegalitarianism.blogspot.com/ Brian Bowman

          Leftist anabaptist/mennonites now are politically aggressive, aligned firmly with the Democratic Party, and going so far as to call for “one shot…to the forehead” (MCC) for their political enemies.

          Thus, their “non-violence” has become a masquerade for collusion with violence.

          • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

            I guess I will have to take your word on that, as I don’t even live in the USA. The anabaptists that I know in Canada, and the UK are some of the kindest people I have ever met.

          • http://peaceegalitarianism.blogspot.com/ Brian Bowman

            No need to take my word on it. It’s a publicly available document targeting their political enemies with violent imagery:

            “…the NRA, GOA…killing…with one shot…to the forehead…I admit some discomfort in calling upon an Old Testament battle story to urge people…” [mcc.org/FearNot/communities/davidgoliath ]

            The American Spectator summarizes well what has happened:

            “Conservative Christians are neo-Anabaptists’ favorite targets…aggressive politics aligned with the Democratic Party, in a way that should trouble traditional Mennonites…they now demand a greatly expanded and more coercive state.”

            Mennonite Takeover?
            The American Spectator
            October 4, 2010

  • candeux

    Without weighing in on the conclusions of this post, I have to say that I find this use of Scripture troubling. Putting the crucifixion story (a historical event) side-by-side with an apocalyptic vision and giving them equal weight is an apples-to-atom bombs comparison.

    Not only that, but the Revelation text can easily be interpreted in a different way. Perhaps the blood on his robe is his own blood. It also seems significant that the sword is coming out of his mouth (not in his hand), perhaps connecting it with the Word, which is sharper than a two edged sword. Not to mention that in most interpretations, texts like these are either highly symbolic or yet future, or both. And, most importantly, it is Jesus doing the judging, not us.

    • David French

      “apples-to-atom bombs” that’s a great turn of phrase given the context. While I think the Revelation passage is referring not merely to spiritual conflict (a debatable proposition, I know) there are many other scriptures that appear paradoxical if one were to think of Christ as either “all peace” or (and I don’t know any folks who are really in this camp) “all war.” As Ecclesiastes says, there are times and seasons for each.

  • Andrew Dowling

    David, if you want to believe in just-war that’s fine. I’m not a hardcore pacifist myself. But please, let’s not be ridiculous and pretend that Jesus preached anything but pacifistic living. It’s there over and over and over again in the Gospels. To then go and pick out the violent parts of a later Apocalyptic text to try to demonstrate that God (as exemplified through Jesus, because that’s what makes one a Christian) blesses us going to kill people is just plain sloppy.

    • Paul Pinos

      Spot on Andrew. David, if you care to honestly wrestle with what Jesus taught in regards to peace, I would suggest checking out the series below. I found it extremely challenging and it did eventually change my mind on the subject. The way of active peace making is never the easiest and sometimes it’s not even “successful” but it is always the right thing to do. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/

      • David French

        I hope you don’t mean by “honestly wrestle” that I simply come around to your point of view :) I’ve wrestled with this question a great deal, across many years, and with many fine minds.

        • Paul Pinos

          No, I don’t mean that you have to agree with me. I know I could be wrong as well but it would take a very strong Biblical case to convince me that I’m wrong. Frankly, as others have posted, your exegesis was pretty sloppy in this article and not very compelling. I simply wanted to present via the link, a very strong case for pacifism (not to be confused with passivity).

    • David French

      I picked that text for maximum contrast. I could have also picked any number of other texts, including Gospel texts like Luke 22:36 and Matthew 10:34.

      By the way, I do not claim that God “blesses us going to kill people.” I say there is a time for peace and a time for war. It is a grave and solemn responsibility of the Christian to discern the times.

      • Alice

        This website has a good explanation for the Luke 22:36 verse. I always wondered how that verse could possibly be compatible with the verses where Jesus tells Peter to put away the sword because those who live by the sword will die by the sword and the verse to turn the other cheek: http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/luke_22_36.htm

        The next verse in the Matthew passage is a continuation (“For I have not come…” and it talks about how Jesus will tear families apart. I hope you are not saying this passage means Jesus wants Christians to maim or kill their family members if they are against him. Fighting and emotional estrangement is traumatic enough.

      • jdamico

        Where exactly does Jesus or anyone in the new testament say that it is “grave and solemn responsibilty of the follower of Jesus to discern these times?” Again, you are creating a theology you want to believe based upon your political/american belief system.

  • Paul Walker

    David, I find this blog post very, very, very, troubling on many levels.

    Your suggestion that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. only practiced out of the ‘discernment of the time’ really misses the mark. MLK consistently called those in the Civil Rights movement to follow the example of Christ in the love of enemy. While he did believe that nonviolence was an effective tool, (the sword that heals) he became convinced that, ‘nonviolence’ is a matter of discipleship and not just the best utilitarian path. See the archive sermon, “Love your enemies” from 1957.

    I am concerned that your use of Revelation is ignoring the genre of the book. If we interpret Revelation according to its genre and in its original historical context, and if we pay close attention to the ingenious way John uses traditional symbolism, it becomes clear that John is taking traditional Apocalyptic violent imagery and turning it on its head. Yes, there is an aggressive war, and yes there is bloodshed. But its a war in which the Lamb and his followers are victorious because they fight the devil and Babylon (representing all governmental systems) by faithfully laying down their lives for the sake of truth (”the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”).

    I am troubled about your ‘dispensational approach’ to the Lordship of Jesus. Or in other words: “Won’t that be great when the Prince of Peace comes?” The problem, I believe, with this thinking is that it functionally denies: (1) the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophet’s hope for the ‘prince of peace’ in the life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. (2) The ‘now and not yet” breaking-in Kingdom (inaugurated eschatology) (3) That Jesus is Lord. Not will be, might be, could be. Jesus is Lord, now on the earth and Christ follower confess this subversive Kingdom that is breaking in ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

    You say, “Christ is not categorically opposed to war”. I wonder if you have ever heard the statements, “Love your enemies” or “do not use violence to resist evil”(KNT) “those who live by the sword die by the sword”? I am deeply troubled why you would say that Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, the life’, but completely ignore Jesus’ teaching and example (the way) on the issue of enemy love.

    I am also troubled that you would try to ‘reconcile Jesus’. Ironically you point to the ‘word of God’ (the Bible) over the WORD(logos) Jesus. I call this ‘biblical-idolatry’, although is sometimes labeled as ‘biblicism’. Biblical-Idolatry is the worship and following of the Bible above the teachings of Jesus. Biblical-Idolatry, while never actually professed, manifests itself by teaching Jesus is ‘a word from God’ and not the final Word (logos) incarnate.

    • David French

      I’m quite familiar with Jesus’s statements regarding love for enemies, or the fate of those who live by the sword. I’m also familiar with his statements that he came not to bring peace but a sword and Jesus telling his disciples to buy a sword. I’m also familiar with the many admonitions toward peace _and_ commands to wage war (sometimes quite brutally) throughout scripture. The question of peace and war isn’t a simple “yes” to either but depends greatly on context and discernment. Thus Christianity isn’t a religion of peace or a religion of war, but one that compels us to different actions at different times.

      Your statement that I elevate the word over the WORD is interesting — given that it is the word is the best source for instruction about the WORD. In fact, any description of Christ that is in conflict with the word of God is not only suspect, but heretical. Where do we find the most trustworthy “teachings of Jesus” but in the word?

      • Paul Walker

        David, the problem I believe the problem that plagues you is a ‘flat reading’ of the scripture. This is to say that you view every text of scripture as equally authoritative. “God said, I believe it, that settles it”.

        I want to challenge you with a central orthodoxy belief of the ‘Supremacy and Centrality of Christ”. This is to say that the entire scope of scripture as culminating in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Jesus is our hermeneutic. I believe that the Bible comes with its own instructions on how to use it, if we have eyes to see them. The Bible records Jesus teaching that all of Scripture functions as a pointer to him. Take Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees as an example: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. “ (John 5:39-40, NLT) Jesus accuses the Pharisees of using the Bible as their endpoint destination rather than as a stepping stone to Jesus. They studied the word of God in print, and they followed the word of God in print. If they had a summary slogan it might be, “The Bible says it; that settles it; I believe it; let’s do it.” But Jesus says to all of us, “Follow me.” When reading the Bible, I believe we too need to need to make that next step to Jesus.

        When we go to the Bible (the words of God), we learn about Jesus, The Word/logos (logic/reason) of God, who has authority over all scripture. Scripture contains the words and revelation of God. We must remember that Jesus is the ultimate end goal of the book that tells his story – its telos. The book is not the destination for a believer in and of itself. This book is the place where I learn about Jesus who claims to be the final destination for our Christian lives. The whole of scripture is about one thing: Jesus.

        So Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount says, “You have heard it said, “Insert Old Testament ethic” BUT I say to you”….

      • Paul Walker

        It also occurs to me that you are taking Jesus’ words out of context.

        “I came not to bring peace but a sword” is in the context of family order. The sword is meant to be interpreted as a ‘division’ of the social order. Not a literal sword.

        “Buy a sword”. The context reveals that Jesus is doing this to be ‘numbered among the transgressors’, a prophetic fulfillment. When the disciples (12 of them) say they have two swords, Jesus replies, “thats’s enough”. If Jesus had meant for them to honestly take up the sword; I am sure he could have done better than two measly swords. Either way, even you think that Jesus is not fulfilling prophecy, the greater context of this statement is immediately self refuting. When Peter uses the sword against Malchus, Jesus rebukes him saying ‘those who live by the sword die by the sword’ and heals the man Peter injured. The early church understood this mean that Jesus was rejecting warfare not just rebuking Peter because ‘he had to die’.

        ““For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion became a believer, the Lord, in subsequently disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier” – Tertullian (160-220 A.D)

        • jdamico

          Well said. If Jesus meant sword literally, he would have applauded Peter’s actions, instead of reaching down and healing the aggressor in love.

          • David French

            No one is arguing that the sword is always appropriate. Christ’s purpose in that moment was not to violently overthrow Rome but to stand in our stead and take the punishment due us for our sins. Other times and other contexts, the sword is necessary to protect the weak, to end injustice, and — as Romans 13 indicates — as an instrument of God’s own wrath against wrongdoers.

          • jdamico

            You are hypothesizing, once again, based upon your american/political motivations and beliefs. Since you like picking and choosing scripture, and did so from the book of romans- how about Romans 12 – Paul REITERATES the teachings of Jesus about loving enemies, and the result that will occur.

          • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

            I would also encourage the reading of Romans 13:The function of the State; within its proper context by first reading Romans 12:the function of the Church.

            Here is a break down:

            THE STATE
            Romans 13:1-7
            May use violence (“the sword”)
            Maintains social order
            ‘Agents of wrath to punish the evildoer’
            Demands taxes and obedience

            THE CHURCH
            Romans 12:14-21
            Rejects the way of the sword
            Leaves vengeance to God
            Spreads radical love, redemption and grace for all
            Overcomes evil with good
            Offers taxes and submission

            The moment you pick up ‘the sword’ you lay down the way of ‘the Cross’. You can’t have both. You can’t ‘leave room for the wrath of God’ and ‘become agent of wrath’ in the next breath.

          • David French

            Can a Christian not work for the state?

          • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

            Paul defines ‘The State’ (exousiai) exclusively in terms of the one who ‘bears the sword’.. etc So in that respect a Christ-follower cannot both take up the Sword and the way of the Cross.

            To rightly make sense of the New Testament, we must continually hold before ourselves the fundamental claim of the New Testament: namely that the new aeon had broken in. Aeon is the Greek word often translated into English as either “age” or “world,” and the New Testament speaks often of this “present aeon.” But the Good News is that the new aeon, the kingdom of God, has broken into the midst of human history. The “present aeon” has not yet passed away, and it is as if the two are now overlapping. But the call of discipleship is to live according to the New, even while the old is yet languishing but sure to be defeated. Our participation in the ‘present age’ should be informed by the ‘new age’.

            What I can be firm on is that Christians should not take up the sword. I recognized that today we define ‘State’ differently than a first century context. Presumably it is completely possible that a Christian work in government, insofar that they do not function in ‘power-over’ people. So theoretically, its possible that you could hold a position in which you renounce the use of the sword (both literal and legislative). (Maybe, work for the parks and recreation department?) I personally think this is a tricky subject, that requires the leading the Holy Spirit.

            We must take a realistic vision of the role of the state. If we keep in mind that, prior to the final consummation of God’s Kingdom, no human system or government or power shall attain the fullness of God’s purposes—which is to say that Death, though it has been defeated, has not yet suffered its final defeat—then such a vision will allow us to practice a thoroughgoing realism with regard to “politics.” In other words, we should not expect too much of nation-states. This is not cynicism. This is an “eschatological realism.” Christ, working through the church is the ultimate hope of humanity, not Caesar, and definitely not the USA.

          • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

            Also, here are a few early church reflections on participation with The State (as Paul defines it):

            “He who holds the sword must cast it away and that if one of the faithful becomes a soldier, he must be rejected by the Church, for he has scorned God.” – Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D)

            “Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law?” – Tertullian (160-220 A.D)

            “A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.” – Hippolytus of Rome (170-236 A.D)

      • Alice

        Just because there are many commandments to wage war in the Scriptures doesn’t mean it’s okay for Christians to do so. In the Old Testament, God spoke directly to Israel’s godly leaders. They did not have to debate over whether or not it was God’s will in a particular instance. Jesus was leading the fight in Revelation.

        God doesn’t give us clear and unmistakable orders anymore. How are we to decide what is a just war and what is not? Consciences are notoriously unreliable. Name a few religious wars in history that were a good idea. One could argue that it’s okay when a nation crosses a certain threshold of evil, but how are we to determine what that point is? Most wars aren’t about moral issues at all but “land, resources, and power” as aspieguy wrote below, and coercion can only force so much change.

  • http://www.theundergroundrailroad.ca/oneabolitionist/ Erin

    Please use Scripture, Jesus and Bonhoeffer in context, please. The prooftexting here is… prooftexting.

    Bonhoeffer did agree to be associated with a plot to assassinate Hitler, but he declared that he was willfully engaging in sin and that Christians should not forget that. While Hitler was evil, the plan to get rid of him was evil also.

    • pagansister

      How could it possibly have been “evil” to kill Hitler? He just took that pleasure away by doing himself in…to late to save a lot of people in the concentration camps, unfortunately.

  • Mark

    Bravo! It’s wonderful to see so many Christians responding so thoughtfully, especially when considering the subject matter. If Jesus wasn’t preaching peace to Israel, instead of war as means of establishing God’s Kingdom, the Gospels, ultimately make little sense. The trial of Jesus represents the two choices available to Israel, whether to opt for violent aggression (Barabbas) or non-violent revolution (Jesus). Israel chooses Barabbas and suffers mightily as a result. Israel is destroyed a second time, including their Temple and their whole way of life. That is the context in which the Gospels are ultimately played out. History is inseparable from theology, and gives us a clear context in which to see and interpret the whole of scripture. It would be no different than reading about the American revolution absent any historical framework.

  • John W. Morehead

    Sadly, in my experience, Evangelicals are quick to label Islam as inherently violent, and yet also as quick to ignore or dismiss it’s own entanglements with violence connected to its Scriptures. (Philip Jenkins has addressed this well in Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses, [HarperOne, 2012].)In my view American Evangelicals have too eagerly embraced the Just War theory and have abandoned the way of peace of both Jesus and the early church, which was the majority view of the church for the first few centuries before it became entangled with Empire. For a fresh and recent assessment of the arguments with a case made contrary to this essay see Lee C. Camp’s Who is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face About Islam – And Themselves (Brazos, 2012). I find it amazing that Evangelicals neglect the work of peace and diplomacy, especially given Jesus’ example and ethical teaching on the blessed peacemakers, and Paul’s description of the Christian as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). American Christianity isn’t a religion of peace. On that much you’re correct. But the broader tradition connected to its founder’s teaching and example? Not so much.

    • Anthony Nuccio

      You stole what I was going to say!

    • Dain Q. Gore

      “…have abandoned the way of peace of both Jesus and the early church, which was the majority view of the church for the first few centuries before it became entangled with Empire.”

      This is at the heart of where many people misinterpret what historically happened to Christianity, and what has been forgotten post-Reformation, equally by the faithful as well as the nonbelievers.

      The “Byzantines” never called themselves by that name. Neither did they consider the Roman Empire had “fallen”. Rather, they were the Holy *Roman* Empire, and Christianity changed dramatically (perhaps the most dramatically in its history, and in a very short time) at that point, it was no longer a religion of the persecuted but rather one of those with all the power in the area, all the way up until the Reformation.

  • Jerry Lynch

    David, you wrote earlier about your son’s ambition to be an excellent killer of men, like his sniper idol, of which you were quite proud. I bring this up simply to illustrate your filter: violent warrior, not peaceful warrior.

    I don’t believe there is any serious student or scholar of the Bible who takes the “sword” Jesus speaks of in Matthew10:34 as a weapon of war but again, as in your verse in Revelation, it clearly refers to the Word. Luke 22:36 is about a future, not a present, Apocalypse–and as pointed out by another commentator in both, Jesus, not us, is the bringer of judgment and justice.

    We have a new covenant, which is in the spiritual realm, not the physical as in the OT, where there was an earthly kingdom with borders to defend. As citizens of heaven, we are not to get entangled in worldly affairs, governments, values, or ambitions.
    David, you said: “I’m also familiar with the many admonitions toward peace _and_ commands to wage war (sometimes quite brutally) throughout scripture.” Commands to wage war are not throughout scripture, only in the OT: one of the difference between the Old and New covenants.

    I have been writing on mostly Christian blogs for about five years and this may be the first time I was not vivciously attack as a coward for pacifist leanings or called vile names for following a “liberal theology” that is an abomination to God, but have people actually sharing a view similar to mine. I must admit it’s a nice change.

    • Jerry Lynch

      If your government declared the people you love most dearly in the world enemies of the state and ordered you to napalm their homes, would you rush to do so? This is what it means to go to war. Christ made it ruthlessly clear. The “enemy” is as much your loved ones as your friends, neighbors and family. You are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but your love is not his to take and use for his purposes. Love resides in the kingdom of heaven. Love is God’s to do with as He pleases, which is for our slavation in his holy name. Only through trust in God, not certainty of belief or arms, can the soul remain safe.

      Christians who believe it is okay to go to war are still living in the Old Testament, still living under the Law and the rules for a physical kingdom. This changed with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Our kingdom is not of this world. The necessity for government and armies, with its border and honor to defend, is gone for the citizens of heaven. To use the OT as a support for war is the same as forsaking grace for the law. We now live in a spiritual kingdom where love is our only function and fulfillment. Our allegiance is to love alone. No events, no circumstances and conditions, decide the way of love. It is not influenced by causes or demands. The world has nothing of value that love either wants or caters to. Love is reality itself.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Sadly the political system of “Christendom” has so misrepresented the ways of Jesus that I wonder if Christians are really following Jesus as their Christ.

  • Reverend Robbie

    All this effort to arrive at common sense conclusions via ambiguous scripture. Appeals to scripture make simple reasoning so difficult.

    • David French

      Approve.

  • Nick

    Jesus clearly said to not use violence to resist violence, and to love our enemies. He also pointed out that if you fail to do this, how are you acting any differently than an unbeliever? (Matthew 5:38-47) If you live by the sword, you die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).

    Paul repeated Christ’s exhortation (Romans 12:14). Repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17). Never avenge yourselves, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21). Put away the guns and start sharing the Gospel!

    It tragically amazes me how many Christians don’t take these commands seriously. Were Christ and Paul joking? Why is it that the Book of Acts doesn’t tell us about Peter and Paul pulling out their swords and slaughtering a bunch of Roman soldiers to avoid persecution? Sometimes Christians treat the Lord more like Molech than “I AM.” Here’s a suitable commentary on the matter: http://libertarianchristians.com/2013/06/12/military-idolatry/

    No sin will go unpunished. Either it will be paid for by the unbelievers in Hell, or it will have been taken upon Christ at the cross. May we never take it into our own sinful hands; vengeance belongs to God. (Revelation 6:9-11)

    http://fivesolasreformation.com/

  • Aspieguy

    There is a time for realizing that wars solve nothing. The idea of a just war is nonsense. People fight wars in order to gain land, resources, and power.

  • Susan Gerard

    I do believe in a “just war”. Unfortunately, every war we have fought since WWII has been an unjust war. I agree with those who have interpreted Jesus’ command to “buy a sword” correctly by what happens immediately afterwards. Far more effective your post would have been if those soldiers were in WWII combat fatigues.

    • David French

      Those soldiers were from my unit in Iraq — the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the justice of our efforts during the Surge was not in much doubt. One has only to encounter al Qaeda to understand both the extent of its evil but also the scale of its ruthlessness.

      • Susan Gerard

        When the president declared war on Iraq, I felt it was a just war. Once I learned our intelligence was false, it fell under the terms for an unjust war. None of that is to say that I am not immensely grateful to our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that they are not doing a great good. I would never show disrespect to them, as vets of Viet Nam were treated. But under the terms of formally described De bellis justis (based on Augustine/Aquinas/Stanislaw), we do not meet the terms.

  • 1sola1verita

    A sensitive and sincere answer to a common, provocative question (“which is the religion of peace?”)


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