Exceptions to the Rule?

Even if Jesus taught pacifism, are there ever any exceptions? This is something Roger Olson posted about on his blog the other day [1]. I was already going to blog on this subject and Roger’s post gave me more enthusiasm to do so. This post is not a response to Olson, but a response to the question above.

Many would argue that Jesus did teach his followers to be mainly nonviolent, but because we live in a fallen world violence is sometimes necessary. On the one hand, I can understand why someone would hold this view. In our fallen World, it seems that some evil can only be responded to with force and violence. Yet, in the end this view will not work. I would argue this for two reasons (although there could be many more).

1.)  The rebuke of Peter (John 18:10-11). One would think that if there were ever a time where it would be allowable for a Christian to use violence, it would be to protect the one whom they call Lord.  Yet, when Peter wanted to defend Jesus he was rebuked for it. If we cannot use violence to protect Jesus, I do not know how we could say it is ok for us to use violence in response to any other situation.

2.) There is no compromise. In the Bible there are no examples that show us we can compromise on this issue.  If Jesus commands us not to use violence, then we cannot do it.

Someone could make the argument that at times in this fallen world we must rely on God’s grace and forgiveness. One example of this Olson gives in his post is Bonhoeffer and Hitler. Surely we will have to rely on God’s grace and forgiveness. Does this mean that we can sin when we deem it necessary? certainly not, and Paul addresses this in Romans 6. If we are Christians, then we are dead to sin. To suggest that we can continue in sin and then rely on God’s forgiveness seems like an excuse to not be obedient. Also, if we rely on God’s grace, I would argue we will be given the power to not sin and to not use violence in response to evil.

There are no exceptions, Christians are always called to be nonviolent.

End notes:

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/03/truly-caught-on-the-horns-of-a-theological-dilemma/


About Danny

Hi, I’m Danny. Just to give a little background, I’m a college student who became a Christian when I was younger. I’m also a musician, White Sox fan, Philadelphia Eagles fan, and armchair theologian. I love playing music and really got into folk when I was younger, but enjoy other genres as well. I also love to read, so if you ever have a book suggestion or want a book suggestion just let me know! This blog is a place to share thoughts on a variety of subjects and to interact in a cordial manner. If there is a certain subject you’re looking for there is a category section on the right side of the website on the home page if you scroll down. Always feel free to comment and share any disagreements if you have them.
This entry was posted in Christian behavior, Love, Pacifism, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Exceptions to the Rule?

  1. It seems to me that your conclusion doesn’t follow from the one text you use (non-sequitur). For one thing, the express reasons Christ gives for Peter to “put away” his sword (note that he’s not telling him to get rid of it) is that Christ must suffer to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament. Christ tells Peter that if it was a matter of Him needing to be rescued out of the situation, He has a legion of angels at His disposal.

    Any argument, if it is going to be valid, can only go so far in the conclusion that is in the text. The text you use may only infer that Peter’s attempt to rescue Christ from His suffering was wrong. And please follow, this doesn’t imply that we are never to rescue someone who is suffering. But, particularly, the text can only be used that Peter’s actions were inappropriate given that Christ was submitting to the will of His Father.

    Pacifism is embarrassed of the Older Testament because it gives a great deal of directives in what a just war looks like, and what self-defense looks like.

  2. First of all, thanks for your comment. I wish I would have been able to respond earlier, but I have been a little busy.

    I think you make some valid points. Yet, let me say some things in response. For one, you are right to point out that Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away, and not to get rid of it. Yet, Jesus does not want them to use the swords at all. Luke 22:35-38 illustrates this. Notice why he tells them to buy the swords. He tells them to buy the swords because Scripture is going to be fulfilled. Jesus was saying that now that scripture will be fulfilled (notice his reference to Isaiah 53:12), he will be killed, and his disciples would face increased opposition. The swords serve as a symbol for this increased opposition. Yet, the disciples think he actually wants them to buy literal swords to use for defense, and this is another example of the disciples misunderstanding Jesus when he predicts his death (ex. Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32). Jesus shows his frustration when he states “It is enough”. Another thing I would add is that because of many of Jesus’ other teachings (ex. Matt 5:43-48), Peter would be disobedient for using the sword.

    Also, you are right to point out that this text (John 18:10-11) is about Jesus “submitting to the will of his father” and that is why Peter cannot use violence to protect him (although in Matthew’s version he goes further, saying that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword”). Yet, the main point I was trying to get across was that there are no exceptions in the New Testament. There is never one instance in the N.T. where a Christian is allowed to use violence. It is clear that followers of Christ are to never use violence.

    At the end of your comment you write:
    “Pacifism is embarrassed of the Older Testament because it gives a great deal of directives in what a just war looks like, and what self-defense looks like”.

    So much could be stated about this, because pacifism is NOT embarrassed of the Older Testament. Just allow me to mention a couple things. First, the vast majority of warfare in the Old Testament could be put under the category of holy war, not just war. Secondly, Jesus tells us to never use violence, so we cannot. Some things that were allowed or even commanded in the Old Testament are forbidden for Christians as the New Testament makes clear.

    Peace of our Lord be with you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Does this pacifism include not killing digital zombies? 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good blog BTW, you write very well. Keep up the good work…

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