Posted by: sean | December 21, 2007

But what about Hitler?

A common one-liner thrown at pacifists is, “all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” Surely there is no better example of this worldly wisdom than the genocide and lust for empire that characterized Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. It is often quipped, “I’m glad pacifism isn’t more accepted or else we’d all be flying the Nazi flag.” Below is David Bercot’s response to this line of inquiry taken from pages 74-78 of his book, The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down © David Bercot. Used by permission. Copies can be obtained from Scroll Publishing Co., P. O. Box 122, Amberson, PA 17210 or see their website at

“But what about Hitler?” I’m often asked.

Actually, that’s my question to Christians who reject nonresistance: “But what about Hitler?” You see, if all Christians had practiced what Jesus taught, Hitler would never have been able to do the things he did. Why? Because most of the soldiers in Hitler’s army were professing Christians. They had voluntarily joined or had been conscripted into the German army, and they were serving their country just as were the British and American Christian soldiers who fought against them. If Christians had stood by the commandments of Jesus, the evil of Hitler would never have happened. He would have had few soldiers to carry out his plans.

If all Christians stood by Jesus’ teachings, perhaps there would be no wars. This is no idle dream. The Pax Romana demonstrated this. The Pax Romana is the name given by secular historians to the period of peace enjoyed by the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180. The Pax Romana was the most peaceful period the Roman Empire had ever known. In fact, it’s the longest period of peace that the Mediterranean world has known from the beginning of European civilization to the present day. During the Pax Romana, the Empire did not suffer even one successful invasion of its frontiers. There were a few domestic uprisings, such as those of the Jews. But there were no civil wars between Romans.

What brought about the Pax Romana? The mighty armies of Rome? No, those mighty armies of Rome were still around in the fourth and fifth centuries when there was no peace. And it was in the fourth and fifth centuries that the barbarians finally were able to successfully invade the Empire.

Was the Pax Romana a result of good rulers? To be sure, there were certainly a number of very able emperors during this period, such as Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius. Yet, there were also madmen and moral monsters such as Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. Still, even during the reigns of these madmen, the Romans had peace.

So what really was different about the period of the Pax Romana? Secular historians have no clear answer. However, I believe the difference was that God had introduced peace into the Mediterranean world into which His Son, the Prince of Peace, was to be born. I believe God brought about that peace without the help of any human armies. And I believe that Christians later maintained that peace–not by using the sword to defend the Empire–but by their nonresistant, peaceful lives and by their prayers.

But this is not merely my own personal belief. The early Christians who lived near the time of the Pax Romana were also firmly convinced that the Pax Romana was the result of God’s intervention. For example, Origen told the Romans, “How was it possible for the Gospel doctrine of peace, which doesn’t permit men to take vengeance even on their enemies, to prevail throughout the earth, unless at the coming of Jesus a milder spirit had been introduced into the order of things?”

Another early Christian writer, Arnobius, wrote, “It would not be difficult to prove that (after the name of Christ was heard in the world), wars were not increased. In fact, they actually diminished in great measure by the restraining of furious passions. …As a result, an ungrateful world is now enjoying–and for a long time has enjoyed–a benefit from Christ. For by His means, the rage of savage ferocity has been softened and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow creature. In fact, if all men without exception…would lend an ear for a while to His salutary and peaceful rules,…the whole world would be living in the most peaceful tranquility. The world would have turned the use of steel into more peaceful uses and would unite together in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.

Defending a Country by Nonresistance

Today, many professing Christians criticize kingdom Christians for not taking up arms and defending their country. Interestingly, the pagans made the same criticism of the early Christians, who refused to defend the Roman Empire with swords. In reply to these pagan critics, Origen wrote:

“Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army–an army of godliness–by offering our prayers to God.

“And if he would have us ‘lead armies in defense of our country,’ let him know that we do this too. And we do not do it for the purpose of being seen by men or for vainglory. For in secret, and in our own hearts, our prayers ascend on behalf of our fellow-citizens, as from priests. So Christians are benefactors of their country more than others.”

Total dependence on God worked! It had powerful results. It brought about the longest period of peace in the Mediterranean world that has existed since the beginning of civilization. If it could work there against all of the warlike peoples of the ancient Mediterranean world, it would have worked to stop Hitler. In fact, as we’ve discussed, Hitler would have never even come into power.

But someone may object saying, “Have you never heard that ‘the only thing needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing’?” Ah, that’s the crux of the whole problem. Regardless of our pious words about faith and trust, most Christians view prayer as essentially ‘doing nothing.’ Whether they admit it or not, most Christians believe that if we don’t take up our guns and stop evil, nothing else will.

But what if all professing Christians today were to live nonresistantly and love their enemies? What if the entire church truly put its faith in God as the Protector of mankind and really believed in the efficacy of prayer? The whole church did this in the first three centuries, and the world they lived in had peace as a result. I have no doubt that we would have new Pax Europa or Pax Americana if the Church did the same today.

Evil can never be defeated by evil, nor can error ever be corrected by error. Satan cannot be cast out by Satan’s means. Following Christ’s teachings is the only effective resistance to evil.



  1. In my struggle with Pacifism, the issue of how to deal with Hitler has been one of the biggest practical arguments against it. It makes sense, if all the Christians in Nazi Germany had acted as Jesus commanded, World War II could have been avoided- but they didn’t. And in light of that, what is the rest of the world supposed to do in the onslaught of the cruelty of Adolf Hitler’s regime? How were the rest of the Christians in the world supposed to react to the Nazi cruelty towards their enemies, the Jews and everyone else they persecuted?

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