A Thoughtful Critique of Pacifism

Next week, I will be ending my break from my review of Doug Jones’s Dismissing Jesus , by turning my attention to his sixth chapter, “The Way of Enemy Love.”  Although Jones himself explicitly stops short of full-blown pacifism, many of his arguments in this chapter closely follow typical pacifist lines.  Indeed, he goes somewhat further than the classic Anabaptist, which disclaims violence on the part of Christians while accepting its legitimate and God-ordained place in the non-Christian state.  For Jones, the rejection of violence basically involves a rejection of the office of civil authority and its coercive tools.  Although obviously I think that Jones goes too far, it is hard not to be drawn to the rhetoric of peace.  No one wants to position themselves as a defender of violence, particularly in a society for whom the just war tradition has long been prostituted to a militaristic agenda.

A full response to Jones’s arguments in this chapter would require some very extensive wrestlings with the relevant biblical teachings and natural law principles on violence, peace, justice, and punishment.  Thankfully, my task in the next installment of my review  has been eased by the fact that my friend Andrew Fulford has already undertaken this task over the summer, with a seven-part series at The Calvinist International entitled “Was Jesus a Pacifist?”  I would highly commend it to you as a patient and thorough consideration of the principles and presuppositions at stake, including careful exegesis of the relevant New Testament texts.  I will have occasion to refer back to several of Fulford’s points in the course of my consideration of “The Way of Enemy Love” next week.  Part 1 of Fulford’s essay seeks to establish the multiple layers of context that must inform our reading of the Gospels.  Part 2 seeks to disentangle what we mean by “pacifism,” and the various distinct sorts of arguments and rationales that are often used to generate pacifistic conclusions.  Part 3 establishes the assumptions that the first Christians would have brought to Jesus’s teaching, as seen in the Old Testament and other New Testament writings.  Parts 4 and 5 work through specific elements of Christ’s teaching and practice that are often appealed to as demonstrating pacifism or condemning all uses of violence force.  Part 6 explores why, if Jesus did not teach pacifism, so many early church fathers did.  Finally, Part 7 sums up how the magisterial Protestant doctrine enables a coherent interpretation of the biblical teaching on peace, enemy love, and violence.

 

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