Christian Pacifism in History

Christian Pacifism in History

Contra the scripture itself, many Christians seem convinced that their faith is not pacifistic — that it is a “warrior’s religion.” These people (correctly) point out that the current ecumenical direction of the Church is not “true” Christianity… but is what they’re yearning for really Christian in nature? All of the would-be “deus vult” crusaders remain unpersuaded by philosophical and theological points because they believe history bears out their desired interpretation of the faith, as a warrior’s faith.

But they do not go back far enough.

Dr. Ryan Reeves, professor of historical theology at Gordon-Conwell University, explains:

This highlights something that needs to be pointed out right now, and that is that repeatedly in this period of time, and back to the period of the Maccabees, and even further back into the Old Testament, there is nothing in the Jewish religion that is pacifistic — at least not in general. When pushed far enough, the Jewish people will take up arms to defend itself and to try to kick out the armies by a show of violence. And what’s interesting is the Romans actually respect the Jews for that. There are examples of the Romans actually speaking well of the Jews for their attempt to fight for what they believe — for their attempt to fight for their deities. And even though the Romans will put them down and put them down with authority, nevertheless — because the Jews attempt to fight for what they believe in; that is the Roman lingua franca, that is what the Romans believe ought to be done in this case — that in and of itself is one of the major differences between the Judaism of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and that of Christianity in its early centuries.

When the Romans find Christians, they know two things: one, they refer to Christians as “new,” which again belies the fact that Romans somehow couldn’t distinguish between Jews and Christians. Romans always refer to Christians as “that new group,” “that new sect,” “that superstizio,” that superstitious cult. They never refer to Jews that way. And so when they see Christians they know the difference.

The other things that Romans find is that Christians are pacifists. They do not take up arms. They are not rebellious. There were not attempts by the Christians to rise up and to overthrow the Roman establishment. And believe it or not, that struck Romans as the strangest thing that they’d ever seen. For a Roman, to be pacifist, to take the suffering upon oneself as the early Christians did, was simply insane. If your God is strong, they believed, if you served a deity who was actually more powerful than the Roman deities, then it ought to be proved. And your deity ought to step in and defend you, at least in some ways. But in particular, to be pacifist and to be a new faith — at least seemingly a new faith — is to be strange to the Romans. And so as we move from the first century into the second century, the major element of persecution that will occur for the Christians is that as they are separated in the Roman mind from the Jews, what will happen is Romans will start to attack the Christians in a way that they have never attacked the Jews. They will single the Christians out in a unique way.

By the way, the motivation for this unique persecution is hatred — disgust towards mind. The early Christians — in their renunciation of hatred and violence — became pathetic. And it is natural to feel disgust for what is pathetic.

The closer one gets to the true heart of Christianity — theologically or historically — the more alien and unnatural it becomes. All kinds of attractive qualities lie in the diverging variants of the faith around the periphery, but that periphery is also where the modern Social-Justice, MTD, ecumenical nonsense lies. Christianity is not the source of the good or the bad in this periphery.

True Christianity is the source of a kind of Holy Nihilism, focused with whole-hearted and steadfast exclusivity on God and the world to come.

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