Does X-tianity demand pacifism?

I've been lurking here for a couple of months now, and and have been impressed with both the passion and level of thought in some of the debates. That said, I'm hoping to get some help on an issue.

A couple of years back, I was given an essay by a professor at a christian college. It was titled "Why the Christian Church Ought to Be Pacifist". To put it mildly, in 15 pages, the author messed me up pretty bad. Despite weakness in some of his points and illustrations, not to mention his references to what I consider questionable sources, such as liberal theologian Walter Wink, I couldn't squirm out from under the idea that maybe Christians really are expected to observe complete pacifism.

I've been struggling with this issue ever since. The issue of pacifism (and its attendant commitment to complete non-resistance) touches every aspect of life. It affects job, family, finances, etc. Christ's instruction to "resist not" seems to demand that I quit my job as a warehouse supervisor, leaving the proverbial inmates to run the asylum, and sanctions gross acts of negligence toward others.

Pacifists mock as absurd the worst-case-scenario argument against their position, but complete non-resistance even in cases of rape, murder, etc. is exactly what is required. In the book "Close Quarter Battle", a British SAS trooper tells of how his unit was called in to try to stop attacks on Amish missionary caravans in South America. While interviewing the victims, he discovered that the men were completely passive while the women in their groups were molested by bandits.

Is this kind of behavior commendable or foolhardy in the eyes of God? Are there worse things than violence? Will Jesus commend pacifists, or will he criticize them in the same way he criticized the religious leaders of his day, who hated him for breaking the Sabbath to heal someone?

Any help is greatly appreciated. This issue has strangled my faith.

Wow, that's a great question. All I can do is ttt it for you. Maybe the other guys will have some insight for you.

A Jewish perspective

yes and no

yours in Christ


Ok, this is my 0.02$


Personally I don´t think Jesus would demand anything, because he knows that noone can be any different then they are at any given moment. With that said, I think it´s up to each and everyone to feel what´s right to do. Each of us has a inner "moralic compass" that tells us what is "right" and "wrong", but that personal compass can´t be used by others, since they have their own "compass" which tells them what to do and what not to do.

An interesting perspective on this problem is if you consider the spiritual law of karma, which boils down to an understanding that everything you do will eventually get back to yourself. But maybe more important, *everything* that happens to you *now* is a result of something *you* did yourself in the past too.  Usually we tend to see ourselves as innocent victims when unpleasent things happen, we see "enemies" that wants to hurt us, simply because we yet can´t grasp that the pain we suffer is the result of something we did ourselves to someone else.

So from this view, revenge and hurting people with violent means is quite stupid  We would only create more pain for ourselves in the future.(thats why Jesus, clearly aware of the Karmic principle and the horrible karma his torturers created for themselves, said something like "Forgive them Father ,they don´t know what they are doing").

 Jesus knew that the only way to stop the vicious cycle, is to forgive (not 7 times but 49) times instead of following the principle of "eye for an eye", like it´s stated in the OT.

Why would Jesus criticize pacifists?Is the person truely against violence because they believe that it is wrong or are they using their "pacifist" attitude for something false?Because they are scared or weak?Truely being opposed to violence takes a lot of guts IMO.Your own church will hate you.Did not the Jews expect the Christ to be a lion?Jesus was a lamb and this was not expected.A warrior to the core but not of this Earth-hence no earthly revolution but rather an utter humiliation of Satan while on the Cross.

Now personally,I do believe that I could be killed.I also believe that I could let somebody steal from me without resorting to violence.But throw in other people (woman and and kids),I couldn't do it.I do believe in protection for yours (children,women,etc.),and I am extremely protective.Not for myslef (as my bravado grows from behind this keyboard?),but for those who are being harmed.I try to listen to the Spirit instead of my emotions but once others are thrown in,I admit,they do get the best of me.

Man,this is a tougher question than I thought lol.

Matthew 10:34 "Don't think that I came to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Matthew 26:51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

Mark 14:46-49 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. [47] Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. [48] "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? [49] Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."

John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) [11] Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

Luke 22:36 He said to them, "But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one."

I think it's difficult to argue that Jesus was a pacifist-- one who is against war or violence as a matter of course. That's not to say it isn't best to avoid violence or war if possible. Sometimes it's not possible. You're not required to be a carpet for people to walk on.

I think the long-held christian attitude to war can be applied to personal violence situations as well:

Just cause--All aggression is condemned in just war theory. Participation in the war in question must be prompted by a just cause or defensive cause. No war of unprovoked aggression can ever be justified. Only defensive war is legitimate.

Just intention (right intention)--The war in question must have a just intention, that is, its intent must be to secure a fair peace for all parties involved. Therefore, revenge, conquest, economic gain, and ideological supremacy are not legitimate motives for going to war. There must be a belief that ultimately greater good than harm will result from the war.

Last resort--The war in question must be engaged in only as a last resort. Other means of resolution such as diplomacy and economic pressure must have been exhausted.

Formal declaration--The war in question must be initiated with a formal declaration by properly constituted authorities. Only governments can declare war, not individuals, terrorist organizations, mercenaries, or militias.

Limited objectives--The war in question must be characterized by limited objectives. This means that securing peace is the goal and purpose of going to war. The war must be waged in such a way that once peace is attainable, hostilities cease. Complete destruction of a nation's political institutions or economic institutions is an improper objective.

Proportionate means--Combatant forces of the opposition forces may not be subjected to greater harm than is necessary to secure victory and peace. The types of weapons and amount of force used must be limited to only what is needed to repel the aggression, deter future attacks, and secure a just peace. Therefore, total or unlimited warfare is inappropriate. ("You don't burn down the barn to roast the pig.")

Noncombatant immunity--Military forces must respect individuals and groups not participating in the conflict and must abstain from attacking them. Since only governments can declare war, only governmental forces or agents are legitimate targets. This means that prisoners of war, civilians, and casualties are immune from intentional attacks.5

Luke 22:51 "But Jesus answered, "No more of this" and he touched the man's ear and healed him"

Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in it's place, Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword"

yours in Christ


That doesn't change the fact that apparently some of Jesus' followers-- most likely with his knowlege-- were walking around with swords. How does that jive with Jesus as pacifist?

Placed in historical context, I think Jesus was saying the messiah was not what the jews expected (a king who would lead the jews to drive their enemies out). But that does not mean Jesus was, or christians should be pacifists.

No, Christians do have the right to defend themselves, but they don't have the right to be the aggresor.We should not be starting fights.I think Jesus is very sad at all the violence and wars that have been started in his name. Jesus's followers did a lot of things Jesus rebuked them for. Actually it was funny that they were wearing swords..think about it...they thought the were going to defend God, he doesnt need us to defend him. Jesus brought a few people out of death, he could of easily put a few people into it. Good old Peter another example of him sticking his foot in his mouth.

yours in Christ


"That doesn't change the fact that apparently some of Jesus' followers-- most likely with his knowlege-- were walking around with swords. How does that jive with Jesus as pacifist?"


What Sherm said basicly. Jesus isn´t responsible for what his followers did or didn´t do. I also think anyone has the right to defend oneself (not being the aggressor though), just be aware of the consequenses of everything you do.

even his followers had that pesky little thing called "freewill".

yours in Christ


another thing to consider..Do you really think Peter was aiming for the ear?..He was aiming for the head, the temple guard probably ducked.

yours in Christ


Most pacifists don't spend their time making whips to go in and beat the traders out of the temple.

Thanks much to everyone for responding.

1)Martial Shadow, thanks for the article. It closely mirrors my gut-level beliefs about how things should be, but those are just my preferences, and not what I seem to get from the New Testament. I find myself almost wishing that the Old Testament was all we had, because it at least acknowledged and allowed for some degree of earthly gratification (As your article said, "we Jews know, that it is God's singular commandment, to live"). The same gospel that took away the old, cumbersome rituals, replaced them with a crushing, inhuman moral code. I don't find that Jesus's "yoke is easy", nor is his "burden light".

2)For those who think Christians are allowed to defend themselves, how do you interpret Jesus's command to "resist not", which he illustrates with three examples (turning the other cheek when struck, giving up your coat when someone sues you for your cloak, and going the extra mile). These three examples seem to pretty comprehensively prohibit any and all forms of self-defense, since they deal with situations in which someone is trying to take away your time, your money and even your physical/emotional well-being. If you take away those things there isn't much left that's worth defending, is there?

3)For Fadiga, and others who don't allow for personal self-defense, but would fight to protect someone else, doesn't that send a mixed message? If the individual is not worth defending, then why not go ahead and teach your children, spouse, etc. to blissfully accept whatever abuse comes their way? The crux of the pacifist position is that vengeance belongs to God alone, and our trust should lie with him to make all things right.

Strangely enough, this is where even hardcore advocates of pacifism begin waffling. Some allow for the quick and bloody defense of others rather than self. Some, like the late John Howard Yoder, devote their entire lives to opposing all forms of violent action, but eventually wind up seeing the need for some restraint on wordly evil. In Yoder's case, I read that he was working on an ethical justification for some kind of less-violent police force just before he died. Even uber-liberal Walter Wink has said that he would support the use of special forces personnel in capturing villains like Osama bin Laden, as long as such actions involved as little violence as possible

Here Wink displays another classic belief of liberals and pacifists. You can capture kidnap, detain, tax someone into oblivion, send them into various forms of re-education camps, etc., as long as you don't kill them. These actions still represent force exerted on another person. Jesus's words cast a wide net, and deal with more than simple physical violence, which means that Wink, Yoder, etc. are vainly trying to justify their own view of what is good on earth.


Couldn't Jesus's actions be seen as his prerogative as God-made-flesh? The New Testament is filled with commands to be Christ-like. They all point us to the virtues of suffering, forgiveness, meekness, unconcern with worldly blessings, etc., and never tell us to emulate Christ the judge, the warrior, etc.

"Most pacifists don't spend their time making whips to go in and beat the traders out of the temple."

maybe it happened in another way? after all it was a very long time ago, stories change when they get told from person to person.

"how do you interpret Jesus's command to "resist not", which he illustrates with three examples"

"turning the other cheek when struck,"

I think one of the Christians on here with some better theological training could give you a better answer... I'm not Christian, but atheist...

but I think the general consensus among Christian scholars is that those examples have deep allegorical meaning that is caught up in the time and hasn't been translated adequately.

for instance, when Jesus said, "turn the other cheek", it was to prevent the person from slapping you again by making sure they ran their hand into the bony part of your head if they did it again... or something like this, I think one of the other people can explain it better, but that's the gist of it.

but basically, Jesus advocated defending yourself, just doing so in as peacefully and calmly a manner as possible.

Many scholars believe the temple cleansing story is highly unlikey.

That´s very interesting Cherrypicker, could you direct me to any source or something. It would be very interesting to study that more, since I believe the same.