Posted by: JohnO | May 18, 2007

Should Christians Participate in War? (1)

Mennonite Statements on Peace (3)

Absolute nonresistance is the most clear-cut way in which the position of Anabaptism with respect to the state is expressed… The basis is the example and command of Christ which constitute the supreme ethic for true Christian disciples.

Therefore, as Conrad Grebel says:

Neither do they [true Christian believers] use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them – unless, indeed, we are still of the old law

Implicit in this view is the stance of church and state separation since the Anabaptists speak primarily, though not exclusively, of the Christian in relation to war and do not clarify their view as to whether the state can rightfully engage in armed conflict

Peter Reidemann, the Hutterian leader, wroet in 1545:

Christ the Prince of Peace, has established His kingdom, that is, His church, and has purchased it by His blood. In this kingdom all worldly warfare has ended. Therefore, a Christian has no part in war nor does he wield the sword to execute vengeance.

The Anabaptist attitude is primarily “defenselessness” and not “pacifism”. The emphasis is on suffering by members of Christ’s kingdom for His sake rather than on the hope of bringing in a general ordering of society in which coercion would be unnecessary. The social order is viewed pessimistically and cannot be “Christianized”.

pg 16

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Responses

  1. do not clarify their view as to whether the state can rightfully engage in armed conflict

    This is a great point. As people of a different world that has not yet come we need not critique the governments of this wicked age for using violence to survive. Until Christ comes, sadly, this is a necessity and if Jesus had established a new country rather than ascended into heaven, we would need to use violence to defend the new country. As it is now, Jesus plans to come with great acts of violence in order to quash the rebellious foes of his coming kingdom (cf. Ps 110; Rev 19). Since we are merely strangers and pilgrims searching for the city whose builder and maker is God, like all our fathers, we do not support nor condemn the use of violence to protect this or that country. Having said this we may reasonably be able to speak out against unnecesary war–war that is for greed, imperialism, political intrigue, and so on. We, as the people of God, need not be mute when it comes to injustice, but at the same time we need not hold our countries to the Sermon on the Mount standard since they, by their very nature, are not members of the covenant.

    Christ the Prince of Peace, has established His kingdom, that is, His church, and has purchased it by His blood. In this kingdom all worldly warfare has ended. Therefore, a Christian has no part in war nor does he wield the sword to execute vengeance.

    I have an issue with this terminology. We are not in the kingdom now. The kingdom has not been established. The kingdom is not synonomous with the church. Jesus did not go around preaching, “the church is at hand, repent.” The kingdom comes at the parousia, the coming of the Son of Man. Certainly some aspects of the kingdom can be experienced now. For example, we are the people of the kingdom, who have tasted the powers of the kingdom, who live by the standards of the kingdom, who seek the God of the kingdom, who submit to the Messiah of the kingdom, and who pledge alligience to the kingdom over and against any other nation or group of nations. Having said this, I agree with Peter Reidemann that since we have adopted in the ethics and standards of the kingdom here and now, we Christians have therefore already beeaten our swords into prunning hooks and our spears into plowshares. We do not keep in our homes weapons of violence because we are bound to a master who forbids their use.


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