I ended the first blog on this topic with three statements regarding evaluation of the conclusion that Jesus is a pacifist, those being:
- The entire Bible, which includes the Old Testament as a co-eaual part, describes Gods nature and action in our world.
- Even (incorrectly) limiting ourselves to the New Testament, Jesus Christ did and said many other things that relate to the question at hand, and, that call into question the conclusion that He is a pacifist.
- There are well established orthodox Reformed theological conclusions regarding God’s nature that also call such a conclusion into question.
These statements demand a broader, deeper examination of the Biblical record in our consideration of Christian Pacifism. In addition, their logical consequences must be explored carefully within the context of God’s character as revealed in Scripture.
When we explore the Old Testament we don’t find a God for Whom “any form of violence is incompatible.” In fact, we find God both doling out violence directly and commanding His people to do violence. A few selected examples should make the point.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (Exodus 14:26-28, NIV)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.” (Joshua 8:1,2, NIV)
Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. (Psalm 144:1,2, NIV)
But the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will sound the battle cry against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it will become a mound of ruins, and its surrounding villages will be set on fire. Then Israel will drive out those who drove her out,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 49:2, NIV)
This is the point at which settled theological consequences come into play. For if the above statements are indeed true, then the exact same God as revealed in the Gospels has used violence in His dealings with humans. In particular:
God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
Many Biblical passages confirm this theological conclusion, including but certainly not limited to:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17, ESV)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)
Thus, to posit a pacifist Jesus Christ creates unreconcilable conflict with both the doctrines of God’s identity / nature and the Holy Scriptures. At this point some might conclude that my work is done, and the issue is settled. It should be with regard to the nature of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
However, there is still the possibility that although God is not a pacifist He in Christ has decreed that we follow this path. I believe such a position is not necessarily in conflict with fundamental Christian doctrine. Therefore, this will be the hypothesis examined going forward.