Posted by: sean | September 1, 2007

Isn’t Pacifism Impossible in the Real World? (1)

the following is taken from  pages 47 and 48 of War Inconsistent with the Religion of Jesus Christ by David Low Dodge (published in 1815).  Mr. Dodge founded the first peace society ever organized in America or in the world and was its first president (The New York Peace Society).  His book in its entirety can be read in .pdf or .html formats on the nonresistance.org website.

We Cannot Survive as NonResistants

by David Low Dodge

Objection.  If Christians generally should adopt these sentiments, it would be impossible for them to subsist in this world in its present state, and if they did continue it must be in abject slavery.  They would become hewers of wood and drawers of water to the tyrannical and oppressive, and would only encourage them in their deeds of wickedness.  The injustice of men must be restrained or the earth will again be filled with violence.  The necessity of the case is such that mankind would be warranted to take up arms to maintain its rights and repel oppressors, if the Scriptures were silent on the subject.

Answer.  We have the history of the heathen world to teach us what mankind is without the light of revelation.  It is full of all unrighteousness, covetousness, and maliciousness; full of enmity, murder, debate, deceit, and malignity; people are proud, boasters, without natural affection, implacable, and unmerciful.  The very design of the gospel is to subdue and overcome these abominable passions and dispositions – not, however, by returning violence for violence, but by producing virtues directly contrary.  The great duty of Christians is to be a light to this wicked world by exhibiting in their conduct and conversation the spirit and temper of the gospel.  If such were the practice of Christians, we have reason to believe that wicked men would be overawed and deterred from their violence in a great measure.  Besides, if all real Christians should utterly refuse to bear arms for the destruction of their fellow men, it would greatly diminish the strength and boldness of warlike nations, so that it would be impracticable for them to prosecute war with the vigor and fury that they now do.

But if the gospel prohibits war, then to urge the necessity of the case against the commands of God is open rebellion against his government as well as total distrust of his word and providence.  On the other hand, if Christians live in habitual obedience to God’s commands, they have the promise that all things shall work together for their good, and they have no reason to fear those who kill the body and after that “have no more that they can do.”

It is strange that Christians should have so great a reluctance to suffer inconvenience in worldly things for the sake of the gospel.  The scoffs and persecutions of the world and the fear of the loss of worldly things are powerful barriers against Christian warfare.  The gospel teaches us that all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, and that through much tribulation the saints must enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Is it not plainly owing wholly to their conformity to the world that they now suffer so little persecution and practice so little self-denial?  If there is reserved for them an eternal weight of glory, so what if they, like their Divine Master, should not have a place to lay their heads?  If they are to inherit a crown of immortal glory, so what if they are called to suffer the loss of earthly things?  If they are hereafter to reign as kings and priests unto God, so what if they are not ranked among the great and honorable of the earth?  If they suffer with Christ, then will they also reign with him; but if they deny him, he also will deny them; and if they are ashamed of him, he will also be ashamed of them before his Father and the holy angels.  Let Christians then obey his commands and trust to his protection while they resolutely abstain from the wicked practices of the world.

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Responses

  1. Mr. Dodge’s response here is very well thought through. The argument that the world will continue to be violent and unruly or that Christians will then be made slaves to pagans unless Christians are willing to stand up and fight is absurd. The fact is for the Christian, the coming of the Messiah is what determines why and what we do. Although it would be nice, we know that we are not going to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth on our own merits or by our own works.

    It is the removal of the Messianic Kingdom element of the gospel and the hope of the faithful that has led to the widespread support of the military by evangelical American Christian churches. Once we return to the Biblical hope and gospel, the ethics of Jesus will also have their place and will make sense. In the meantime, while most look to escape earth and their body to be a disembodied soul in heaven doing who knows what for eternity, the relevance of loving your enemy without stipulations doesn’t make sense.


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