Reply to Steve Hays on "Cherry-Picking Pacifists"


Monday, April 09, 2012


Cherry-picking pacifism

What if Jesus really meant it when He said "Love your enemies"? You may call it simplistic, but Jesus did not say to come to Him as a theologian, but as a child.
By Jonathan on Military ethics on 4/8/12

It’s striking how selective people are when prooftexting pacifism. Loving our enemies is not our only social obligation. The Bible presents a number of different social obligations. For instance:

Another pacifist prooftext: "Thou shalt not kill."
10 Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend, and do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away (Prov 27:10). What does it mean to "forsake" a friend? If my friend is being attacked and I do everything I can to protect my friend from the attack -- short of intentionally killing the attacker -- have I discharged the command not to "forsake" my friend? Which is more important, not forsaking my friend, or not forsaking God?
 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44). You cannot discharge the commandment to love your enemy if you intentionally kill your enemy. Paul defines "love" as not stealing from your enemy and not killing your enemy (Romans 13:8-10).
 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die’ (Mt 15:4) Again, what does it mean to "honor?" See above.
 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:37-40). 25  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).  Again, what does it mean to "love" my neighbor when my neighbor is being attacked? See above.

Again, what does it mean to "love" my wife? See above.

8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). Again, what does it mean to "provide" for my family? See above. (The context is financially providing for widows.)
Which brings us to the next point: where does your duty lie in case of conflicting duties? There is never a conflict. There is always a way to reconcile the apparent conflict. (1 Corinthians 10:13).
If a man pulls a knife on your wife, and you have a gun pointed at his head, should you shoot him, or should you let him slit her throat? How are you loving your wife if you let him murder her when you were in a position to save her? What if you shoot him and his last reflex action before he dies is to slit her throat with the knife that you saw was perilously poised to slit her throat?

You should give a Scriptural witness (because God's Word does not return void) and pray at the same time. You should give him a persuasive opportunity to repent of his apparent intention.

It’s not as if the pacifist is more faithful to Scripture than a Christian soldier or policeman. The pacifist can only be pacifistic by disobeying a number of other Scriptural duties. The pacifist is clearly more faithful to Scripture than a U.S. soldier who is killing, crippling and making homeless hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians in order to replace a pro-western government with an Islamic theocracy under Sharia law.
The solution to the dilemma is to distinguish between higher and lower obligations. Not all obligations are equally obligatory. Some duties are greater than others. Some duties take precedence over others. In case of conflict, a higher obligation temporarily supersedes a lower obligation.  OK
All things being equal, we should love our enemies–but all things considered, there are situations in which we can’t simultaneously love our neighbors and our enemies. Something has to give. Some duties are prima facie duties rather than actual duties.  I disagree. God does not put us in position where we are forced to sin. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If, for instance, we have to harm the assailant to protect the innocent from harm, then our first duty is to the welfare of the innocent, not the assailant. It would be unjust to treat both parties equally. That's the question: is it inescapably necessary to harm the assailant to protect the innocent?

Second, how do you prove from Scripture that our first duty is to love X rather than love Y?

Our duty is to think of one of the ways God has provided to lovingly prevent an assailant from carrying out an evil intention.

Finally, pacifists talk carelessly about loving your enemy. Suppose a bank robber takes hostages. He shoots one hostage to show the police that he’s serious. Suppose the police sharpshooter has a clear shot and takes the shot. He kills the bank robber before the robber murders any more hostages. In what way am I not being "careful?" It seems to me that anti-pacifists thoughtlessly and carelessly resolve to kill people without working on creating non-violent alternatives.

Jesus says "Give to him who asks." The Federal Reserve creates trillions of dollars a year. Give the robber a few bags of federal reserve notes and then deal with him when his adrenaline goes down to normal.

The robber wasn’t the policeman’s enemy. He wasn’t a threat to the policeman. The policeman wasn’t avenging the robber. If killing isn't vengeance, I don't know what is. This is not "overcoming evil with good" (Romans 12:21). Give him drink, give him water, give him Federal Reserve Notes.

The banks are actually the robbers. Maybe they should make restitution.




Chris H4/09/2012 9:43 AM


Whenever I encounter pacifists (and my area of the world is rife with Mennonites, so it's fairly common), I find this question makes their words stop:

If you had to smash a man's skull to stop him from continuing to rape your 10 year old daughter, would you?  
If the answer is anything except, "Yes. Absolutely. Give me a brick," then I find the person no less a monster than the rapist. So he's already started raping your daughter, but instead of witnessing to him and asking him to stop, or simply pulling him off of your daughter, she now has to witness you splatter your daughter's face with his brains. Great parenting.

natamllc4/09/2012 10:30 AM


For me one of the best debunker bomb scriptures in all the Bible is this one:

Psa 46:9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.  
Tell me, then, how does one break the bow and shatter the spear and burn the chariots with fire to cause wars to cease to the end of the earth? I don't get this.

Jim Pemberton4/11/2012 11:33 AM


It's the sinfulness of this fallen world that creates such conflicting obligations. Many who despise God point to the apparently irreconcilable conflicts brought on by sin as proof that God is not all He's cracked up to be, when the sin is our fault. In cases like these, I think you have a good principle here. When faced with conflicting obligations, we can't judge all obligations to be equal. Even when the conflict is between two very difficult obligations, the principle is whether our ultimate desire is to serve God faithfully while grieving that we cannot fulfill both.

The story is told of two soldiers in WWII, one American and one German, who met each other on a remote corner of the battlefield. In Western culture, it is a little-discussed quasi-tradition that allows enemy combatants to enjoy a temporary cease-fire under certain circumstances and these two took advantage of that tradition for a moment. As they sat down together to rest, they talked and discovered that they were both Christians. Submissive to their governing authorities in the service of their country and bound not to murder according to the commandment, they shared the tension between those obligations. One of them, the American, had the clear advantage as they got up to part ways. Grieving as he did so, the American promptly killed the German who would have followed orders, reported troop movement information, and facilitated in killing Americans. Knowing that his enemy here was a brother in Christ, the American had at least the consolation of knowing that the One to whom he dispatched his brother would welcome him into eternal life. This is pure idolatry. This is murder, pure and simple. We must obey God rather than "the governing authorities in the service of their country." (Acts 5:29) They both should have walked together to Switzerland.

World War II was utterly unjustifiable on Christian grounds.