I recently stumbled across this documentary Prince of Peace, God of War (2007) that might be helpful for those curious about the Anabaptist belief in practicing pacifism and the non-violence of Jesus in peace-making. This film contrasts this view with the “just war” position held by many evangelicals.
I don’t know how I’m just now discovering this film. Check it out! It’s well worth your time. Watch and listen with an open heart and an open Bible.
What do you think? Do the arguments for “just war” hold up? According to the life and teachings of Jesus, is there any room for Christians practicing violence? What do you believe?
D.D. Flowers, 2015.
October 15th, 2015 at 2:06 am
Thanks for this, just watched it and it was great.
October 15th, 2015 at 11:02 pm
I was at the premiere of this several years ago. Compelling film……however…..the larger question of how Christians are to relate to the state is not really addressed. I am completely on side with the peace teachings of Jesus and that we avoid violence personally. But…..I have not heard good arguments from the pacifist position for Christians refusing to support the state in its God-given responsibility to “bear the sword” against evildoers. Can I personally be a pacifist but support a nation’s choice to go to war? I think there must be a middle position somewhere in this.
October 20th, 2015 at 7:27 am
https://vimeo.com/92304672 Fascinating reawakening of this topic. I’m just sharing this link for further light on the subject.
October 20th, 2015 at 9:23 am
Thanks, Joseph! I was unaware of this debate.
October 20th, 2015 at 5:19 pm
Excellent back and forth on the historical evolution of Christianity and the question of Pacificism and Just War…However, forcing Jesus and His Apostles to say things that they may not have addressed from our perspective is pure speculation.
Re-Framing your initial question of “Christians practicing violence” to “Christians advocating the protection/preservation of innocent and/or vulnerable lives” may be a better starting point. Another question is “what Christians in history practiced violence for what cause?” The central debate among evangelicals has centered around how to protect/preserve the vulnerable/innocent among us (including ourselves and our families/relatives/friends when we are truly exposed to evil), and the troubling opening declaration of Paul in Romans 13:1 regarding the Christian and the civil state when he wrote, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
Hmmm? That truth is really provocative to digest! How would the Roman Church in the A.D. 50s when Paul wrote to them, have understood this assertion? Christians were marginalized in the Roman Empire up until the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Well, Paul goes on to say that Christians were not only to subject themselves to governing authorities, but do it out of conscience sake, not out of the fear of wrath (since the assumption would be that they are doing good, and not evil). This God-conscienced motivation is the very reason for Christians to pay taxes, customs, render due fear & respect to authorities, honor to those among the state being honored, etc.
However, Paul goes on to say, that Christians should never stop paying the debt of agape towards one another which goes back to what he wrote to them to practice in Romans 12:9-21. Not many scholars notice the link between 12:19 and 13:3-4. This is similar to what Jesus told Peter in the Gospel accounts, not to use the sword. Paul adds to that teaching of Jesus for his audience that the governing authorities are sanctioned to use lethal force on evil-doers (i.e., the sword) under “normative societal circumstances.”
This action would be what the Just War advocates would support as legitimate governing authorities administering justice in behalf of the good in society, and punishment towards the evildoers. Paul wrote “…for it [i.e., the governing authority] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it [the governing authority] is the minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” Is this “violence” or is this action as Paul termed it as, God-sanctioned wrath against evil-doers to protect the good folks in society?
Again, Romans 13:1 is the key passage in this “Christians-living-in-a-first century-Roman-governed” context. This does not directly address what has transpired since in history since Constantine’s day, but it is prudent to begin with THEIR context first, and bridge the 2000 year gap, and apply it responsibly, to the post-modern times in which we are in living.
Disclaimer: This explanation does NOT factor in Roman Emperor abuses under such tyrants as Nero, Domitian, Diocletian, Decius and others, who violated this divine directive and turned on segments of the population by, for instance, violently seeking out, interrogating, and executing innocent, confessing Christians from among the Empire.