Fights about Pacifism

Fights about Pacifism October 25, 2013

Driscoll calls pacifists pansies, failing yet again to comprehend what pacifism is and how best to approach the question at hand: What about the Christian, the state and violence? What does it mean to live the gospel in a world of violence? Three recent posts about pacifism are worth your read and at the bottom I have a brief response myself:

Preston Sprinkle:

I actually really like Mark Driscoll. He’s a former ball player, and so am I. He loves red meat, craft beer, and has no time for diaper wearing pansies behind the pulpit. Mark is a manly man, and since I was recently labeled a “manly pacifist,” I think we have a lot in common. Mark says it like it is. So do I. So let me say it like it is: Mark’s assumption that pacifists are pansies is historically naïve, theologically horrendous, and shows that Mark’s been more influenced by the worldview of those who put Jesus on the cross rather than the One who hung on it. Everything Mark says about violence is eerily close to what Rome said about it 2,000 years ago. Contrary to Rome, Jesus taught that suffering leads to glory, cross-shaped weakness radiates divine power, and loving your enemies showcases the character of the Father (Matthew 5:44-48)….

But it’s Driscoll’s rhetoric that is more entertaining than his exegesis. He still, after all these years, considers Christian pacifists—including Martin Luther King, Charles Spurgeon, Leo Tolstoy, Dwight Moody, and most of the pre-Constantine leaders of the church—to be pansies. Those who pick up their crosses and follow Jesus nonviolent journey to the cross are pansies. Those who take Jesus’s counterintuitive, life-giving words seriously, to turn the other cheek and love their enemies, are pansies. But for Driscoll, not only are these Christian heroes pansies, but all who teach that Jesus was a pacifist will be slaughtered by Mark’s (De)Jesus when He returns—Uncrossed…

Look, I’m all for being manly (if you’re a man). But let’s not be pansies by letting our gun toting, rib eating, Harley riding culture tells us what it means to be a man. I own guns. I love ribs. I ride a Harley. But I don’t let these cultural artifacts dictate my theology. The New Testament is clear: Real men love their enemies, never return evil for evil, and never resist evil by using violence. Real men suffer. Real men pray for those who persecute them. Real men submit to the sword, but they don’t bear it. So go ahead and eat raw meat, vote Republican, shoot your guns (just not at people). But let’s invite the word of Christ to reconfigure and confront our cultural view of manhood.

Brian Zahnd:

In my long and winding journey I’ve come to understand that to live gently in a violent world is part of the counterculture of following Christ. This is not something I would ever have arrived at on my own. I am not by nature a gentle person. For most of my life I have viewed violence with a kind of affection. In my youth I got in plenty of fights. I enjoyed violent movies. Cowboy justice held a romantic appeal. As a pastor I supported nearly all (if not literally all) of America’s military adventures. If my views on violence have changed — and they have — the blame falls squarely on Jesus! It’s not like I just woke up one day and said, “Hey, I think I’ll adopt a position of Christian nonviolence just for the fun of it. I bet that will be popular!” No, that’s not what happened. What happened was once the red, white, and blue varnish was removed from Jesus and I learned to read the gospels free of a star-spangled interpretation, I discovered that my Lord and Savior had a lot of things to say about peace that I had been missing. I was as surprised as anyone! But once you’ve seen the truth you can’t un-know what you know and be true to yourself. So let’s talk about it.

Mike Skinner:

Is Jesus a pacifist?  Apparently not, according to Mark Driscoll.

In a recent post (“Is God a Pacifist?”), the mega-church pastor actually presents the person and work of Jesus as evidence against the idea that God is a pacifist.  My advice to anyone who is not immediately taken back by this statement?  Read the Gospels.  That Jesus (in the Gospels) embodies and commands a posture of nonviolence appears to me to be an axiomatic truth….

3. Driscoll is making the same mistake that Jesus’ contemporaries made: desiring a militaristic Messiah who will shed blood (like a UFC fighter).
Jesus rebuked many during his lifetime for wanting God to deliver Israel (and through them, the world) through violent means.  This is a consistent theme throughout the Gospels (particularly Mark).  At the end of his post Driscoll says, “Some of those whose blood will flow as high as the bit in a horse’s mouth for 184 miles will be those who did not repent of their sin but did wrongly teach that Jesus was a pacifist.”  What he fails to realize is that the sin of desiring to bring God’s Kingdom by violence is actually one of the primary sins that Jesus calls people to repent of throughout his lifetime. As N.T. Wright so often points out, repentance should be understood as Jesus’ call to “abandon our own ways of bringing about God’s will and adopt his.”  His way of bringing God’s Kingdom is nonviolent. Yet somehow along the way, we’ve forgotten that we can trust the revelation we have received in the person and work of Jesus as presented in the Gospels.  We’ve forgotten that Jesus’ life shows us exactly who God is and what he is like (John 1:14-18Hebrews 1:1-4).

My question to Driscoll, and to you, is this:

 Is Jesus’ (and thus God’s) character more fully revealed on a cross (dying as an act of forgiveness for his enemies) or in an octagon (killing his enemies in an act of vengeance)?

Mark it a fourth, Greg Boyd:

To sum it all up, in this passage [in Matthew 5:38-42] Jesus is doing nothing less than telling us that our willingness to set aside a violent OT law in order to obey his new command to love and refrain from violence toward even the worst kind of life-threatening enemies is a precondition for being considered a child of God. And this, folks, is why I don’t believe Driscoll’s argument about the sixth commandment allowing for some forms of killing is relevant to followers of Jesus.

Now SMcK: Driscoll has a flat Bible. What is in the OT is the same as the NT is the same as Jesus is the same as Paul is the same as Revelation. It’s a Bible that he believes in a text of propositions, not a Bible with a Story, and because there’s no flow to his reading of the Bible he can choose which texts best fit his moods. So he omits important elements:

1. Why not discuss Matt 5:38-42? [See my new commentary on The Sermon on the Mount.]

2. Why not discuss the “passive” Jesus in the crucifixion scenes?
3. Why not discuss 1 Peter 2 which evokes the image of Jesus as suffering as a model for others absorbing suffering?
4. Why not examine the blood of Revelation and see whose blood it is … it is Christ’s?
5. Why not learn the stories of martyrs who conquered by suffering?
6. Why not look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer — talk about manly faith?

In other words, Driscoll needs a Story and christocentrism shaped by cruciformity to read the Bible well.

Shock talk theology demeans the gospel.


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