This entry is part [part not set] of 8 in the series Christians and Violence

This is the 7th (actually, the 8th) post on Christians and violence, and for better or worse, it’ll be the last. We’ve covered lots of different sub topics within the issue, including what Jesus and Paul say about violence (blog 2), how the Old Testament’s view on violence fits in with the New Testament (blog 4), and we’ve even wrestled with what to do when a killer breaks into your home and pulls a gun on your family (blog 5). For this last post, I want to do three things: 1) sum up my view, 2) sum up some of the others, and 3) point out a few areas where I’ve changed over the course of this series. (That’s why I blog, by the way. I want to sharpen my thinking, not just to show why my thinking is correct.)

So, what is my view? Again, here are the four views I listed in the first post:

View 1: Pacifism (non-resistance). Christians should not kill people, but they can join the military (or police force, etc.) as long as they serve as non-combatants (psychologist, medical doctor, etc.)

View 2: Pacifism (total non-participation). Christians should not join the military or any other institution that endorses and participates in violence.

View 3: Just War. Christians can participate in a war that is waged on a “just” basis. The seven-fold criteria for a “just” war include: (1) Just cause, (2) Just intention, (3) Last resort, (4) Formal declaration, (5) Limited objectives, (6) Proportionate means, (7) Noncombatant immunity.

View 4: Self-defense and justice. This view focuses on the individual’s encounter with evil, as opposed to his/her participation in national warfare. The view says that a Christian may use violence when defending oneself against evil (i.e. being attacked in a dark alley, etc.) or to achieve justice for someone being oppressed (i.e. executing Hitler, etc.).

In the previous posts, I defended view 1 (while allowing for view 4 in some extreme cases and with qualification; see part 5). As far as the other views go, View 2 (total non-participation) doesn’t make sense to me, since if you pay taxes, or work for a company that makes springs that go into making M-16s that go into the hands of combatants on the front lines, or if you work for a plastic company that makes water bottles, some of which are sent to our soldiers in Iraq—in other words, if you’re a citizen of America—then it’s impossible to completely divorce yourself from the military or many other societal evils. (Every bite of chocolate you take helps fund the use of slave labor in picking cocoa beans in Africa.) For this reason, I actually think that Christians can participate in the military. I only think that Christians should not serve as combatants for the reasons stated in the previous blogs. But Christians can and should, I think, serve as psychologists, doctors, and cooks in the military. Yes, you’re still part of the machine that’s waging unjust wars (see below)—but in a sense, aren’t we all? Why not serve in a capacity that can help reverse the tide of evil and show off a glimpse of the shalom that awaits us?

I’ve already considered View 4 in part 5 of this series. In some extreme cases, we may be forced to choose between killing or letting our families be killed (for example), and I’ve argued that killing the killer and thus preserving the life of your family can be considered the “higher law” since you are preserving life. But this is only as a last resort.

Now, what about the Just War theory? The problem with this view is immediately exposed when you look at their own criteria and ask the question: has there ever been a just war? Has there ever been a war that has adhered to non-combatant immunity? The answer is no, by the way. WWII, often hailed as a just war, fails by the position’s own criteria. Non-Combatant immunity was violated on a nuclear level, as America incinerated over 250,000 Japanese non-combatants at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And—we don’t often hear about this—some of these were Christians. Nagasaki had a growing Christian population, which was annihilated by Americans with a nuclear bomb, which stunted the growth of the gospel in a largely anti-Christian country. What about just intention? Would Jesus say that retaliation or a preventative strike is “just?” Or who gets to define what “just” is? (Jesus does, right?) The issue of “just” when speaking about “war” becomes very convoluted once you look into why countries go to war. Our intentions for war raise a lot of questions. Why didn’t we fight for justice when 800,000 Rwandans were being hacked to pieces with our full knowledge of what was going on?

And who are the “we,” and who are the “them?”

Think about the war in Iraq. We were the good guys taking out the bad guys, right? Well, that’s how the story goes, but the story doesn’t like to talk about the fact that Iraq also had a growing Christian population before America invaded the country. There were some 800,000 – 1.2 million Iraqi Christians during Saddam’s reign who were able to worship in relative peace, but after we invaded, Christians have been vigorously persecuted, exiled, and killed. Today, the number of Christians has radically dwindled to a(n unknown but) small number. So when we talk in terms of “us” invading “them,” which citizenship are we referring to with the pronouns?

Many of us have heard of the famous “Christmas Truce” held on Dec 24-25th, 1914, in the middle of WWI. Both sides—the Germans and the Brits—decided to break from war so that they both could observe Christmas in peace. And on Christmas eve, when temporary peace was being enjoyed, the British troops broke out in unison: “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…” only to hear an uncanny echo across “enemy” lines, “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, Alles schläft; einsam wacht.”

Again, how are we defining “us” and “them?” The nations will always war, but war never brings shalom. Only Jesus through His Spirit-filled, peacemaking, enemy-loving church can. We cannot confuse our mission with theirs.

So, lastly, where have I changed over the course of this series?

First, I no longer like the term pacifism. I began the series using it, but I don’t like it because it’s not a distinctively Christian label. (You can be a flag burning drag queen, who hates Jesus and America, and be a pacifist—not the crowd I want to be confused with.) I’m not fond of any labels, so labels that aren’t distinctively Christian are worse! So—I’m no longer a “pacifist,” and if rumor gets out that Preston Sprinkle is a pacifist, you’ll know that the rumor starter didn’t read the entire series. I’m not sure what else to call myself. Non-violent shalomer? Too long, and too weird. Christ-follower (Jesus acted non-violently, and so do I)? Nah, too loaded and imprecise. Anyway, I’d love to hear any suggestions.

I believe that Jesus promoted and demonstrated non-violence as a means of confronting injustice. I believe that we should love our enemies and not kill them. I believe that the church as kingdom outposts should be well-known as peacemakers and not warmongers. (And if you’ve traveled or lived overseas, by the way, you know that Christians are usually known as the latter.) There may be extraordinary circumstances that allow for the use of violence (again, see part 5 of the series), but this is not the norm, this is not our posture, and this doesn’t reflect the passion behind Jesus’s ethic and practice. I believe that Jesus established a non-violent kingdom, and his followers should be known as being against violence in the same way that they are against homosexuality, fornication, and drugs.

Second, my view on Matthew 5 has been modified a bit. I still think that Matthew 5 supports Jesus’ non-violent ethic, but I think we need to pay very close attention to the details of the text before we quote it to make sweeping (and sometimes rather aggressive) claims (as I did in a couple posts). I no longer think that Jesus was correcting Moses’ liberal allowances for violence (thanks to Adam F), since Moses himself discouraged violence more often that we realize.

Third, I think we (for those who hold the same view that I do) need to be pastorally sensitive in how we discuss this issue. (If I was too insensitive throughout the series, I genuinely am sorry and didn’t intend to be so.) Many believers, who are passionate for Jesus, have fought in wars, have had kids who have fought in wars, and have lost kids in war. It’s a delicate issue. So treat it as such. This doesn’t mean that we ignore what the Bible says about violence, but it does mean that we proclaim truth in a way that shows love to our hearers. I would say the same thing, in fact, regarding issues surrounding homosexuality—we shouldn’t make stupid, non-Christians jokes about the gay community, nor should we simplify the issue, only to slam on homosexuals. 10-15% of Evangelical Christians struggle with same-sex attraction. Making unloving and degrading comments regarding these brothers and sisters could actually push them further away from Jesus. The same goes for those who have been divorced (biblically or unbiblically), those who have tearful battles with weight, eating disorders, self-perception, or even those who make a ton of money and haven’t grown up in a culture where greed, idolatrous comfort, or radical generosity has ever been addressed.

Point being: we need to be pastorally prophetic; we need to speak truth in love; we need to work hard at figuring out when to be bold and in your face, and when to walk gently with people through tough issues.

For those on both sides of the issue, my plea is that you would look not to the view itself but to the texts which are used to support each view. At the end of the day, I would love it if Christians would stop having a knee-jerk reaction against non-violence (cough, cough, “pacifism”) and would be honest with that fact—and I do think it’s a fact—that the promotion of non-violence and peace has a good deal of New Testament support. Disagree with it you may, but considering it an absurd, weird, or unbiblical view cannot be sustained.

Let’s continue the dialogue, shall we? Set aside our presuppositions, our cultural baggage (yes, we all have some) and our anger, and let’s continue to dig into the text in a healthy, cordial, Christ-exalting dialogue about His view of violence.

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  1. Hey Preston,

    I’ve absolutely loved this series. I think you’ve done a fantastic job of addressing the topic as comprehensively as is possible in a half dozen blog posts.

    Pertaining to terminology, Jack Legg and I prefer the phrase “actively non-violent.” The term pacifist can often carry the idea of one’s being passive when it comes to war, evil, injustice, etc. To be actively non-violent means that I pursue peace, good, and justice, but only in ways that do not exacerbate the situation (returning evil for evil).

    As a specific example, last weekend Jack and I were planting our garden in the lot next to our house when the neighbors down the street got into a verbal argument that was quickly escalating. When I looked up, the man appeared to be attempting to pull a child out of the arms of the woman. Both were screaming at each other. Jack and I both began to walk down the street towards the altercation. Before we got within 30 yards, the man pulled back and hit the woman with a vicious right hook, knocking her to the ground. When Jack and I got to the house, we made our presence and our intentions known, and waited until we were sure the violence and fighting was over with. We had no intentions of fighting the man, but we could not sit idly by while the violence occurred. If it came to it, we would step between the blows.

    We believe in a love that is stronger than our fears, so we will not fight. But we also believe in a God whose people are called to be peacemakers, so we can’t sit and watch the world destroy itself. We must find ways to overcome evil with good.

    Anyway, I really just wanted to say thanks for writing on the topic. You have at least one person who is sad you’re moving on to something else : )

    • Tim,

      Thanks a ton for dropping in and sharing that powerful story! (For all those reading on, Tim and Jack were students of my back at Cedarville, and–I think I can say this now–they were among my favorites! They worked incredibly hard in the classroom and sought to passionately live out everything they learned. Model students.)

      Stepping in to take the blows. Pretty bold stuff!

      Great to hear from you, Tim. And tell Jack I said hello!


      • Thank you for your kind words, Preston. Thankfully, it hasn’t come to stepping between blows yet. But in a neighborhood where violence is perceived to be the only solution to problems, I think it might take that type of posture to begin to see change. Returning blow for blow is the norm here (as it is in our world). The way of the Cross calls us to absorb the worst of the world to protect the innocent (and sometimes the not so innocent!). This is the radical love of Jesus.

        The one who trades blows with the oppressor only compounds the problem, but the one who watches and does nothing silently consents to the oppression. This is the point I was hoping to make.

        God’s Grace on Oppressors and Oppressed alike.

        • “The one who trades blows with the oppressor only compounds the problem, but the one who watches and does nothing silently consents to the oppression.”

          This is a great line and is a very good summary of much of what I’ve been trying to get at. While fighting evil with evil makes sense to us, it only “compounds the problem” and doesn’t actually achieve the shalom we think it’ll bring.

          You guys still living in the Malberry House (spel?)?

          • Yes, we are still in the Mulberry House. It’s been three years for me this May. You can keep track of us a little bit at Admittedly, we are terrible at posting on a regular basis, but you’ll usually find what is on our hearts on the page.

            Thanks for your responses. Hope you and your family are doing well.

        • Praise God for your faithfulness Tim! That is a great story that demonstrates there are more than two options available when “hypothetical situations” materialize (trade blows with the oppressor or do nothing). Needless to say, it also demonstrates the powerful love of God’s grace. Thank you again for your example of faithful courage!

  2. I have said “cruciform pacifism” but, although *I* think it sums up my view well, a lot of people hear “cruciform” and have no idea what it means and then they hear “pacifism” and think it means “passive-ism.” However, I have also found that using such a phrase (“cruciform pacifism”) allows for great conversations since it is such an odd and provocative phrase all at once and they kind of know where isn’t going (“pacifism” is a dead giveaway). It allows me to discuss cruciformity which, when explained, all Christians agree with–to be ‘conformed’ or ‘formed’ into the the image of the ‘crucifixion’ (that’s why Christians are baptized! Romans 6; Col 2:12; cf. Gal 2:20; Phil 3:10; etc.). (Even though I don’t convince every Christian I talk with to be a pacifist, they always agree that cruciformity is central to being a Christian.) Then it allows me to explain pacifism (meaning “peace(ful)” not “passive”). Put the two together and you have the ‘active non-violence’ that Tim suggested as well as making it a definitively *Christian* stance/perspective (thus, no confusion with flag burning drag queens!). At the end of the day, I think pacifism/non-violence is really just a correlative of cruciformity.

  3. Hey Preston,

    I just watched the “Machine gun Preacher” yesterday, which is the movie based on the true story of Sam Childers who fought in Sudan for the freedom and safety of thousands of children orphaned by the heinous crimes of the LRA. In the movie I saw myself rooting for Sam and hoping that he save the kids, but due to hollywood dramatization there was also a dark side to this. He began to be blood thirsty and drift away from the LORD. This caused him to be despised by his family (for a time), his best friend he lead to Christ (die of a heroin overdose), and the men he worked with in Sudan (to question his “willingness to throw away his life”, a death wish), but in the end he changed because his love for the kids rekindled and he fought the war against Joseph Kony in order to save them. The big questions he was wrestling with were: Where is God when the kids are being raped, killed, forced to kill (some their own parents), etc? Where was God when children are set on fire and burned to send a message to him and left in a pile to be no longer alive? Where was God in all this pain? Similarly as I think of this i drift to the book of Job who asked, along with his 3 friends, similar questions. God is always there and is always the Father of the fatherless. How can we as Christians (i know this is another hypothetical question) seemingly not fell inclined to follow suit to Sam Childers? Or are we to not go to the extremes that he did in order to rescue these children? I know that this is a “gray area” question, but one has to ask this. Is it a culture thing that we cheer on Sam Childers or is it truly the heart beat of God to do as Sam did? What makes killing those men, who are merely slaves to Satan and his kingdom, any different than being the “hand of God” (so to speak) as Sam murdering those men? If we are to kill them who are (zombies: unregenerated people, walking dead)how can this truly be loving even if that would be doing the “higher good” ? WOuldn’t our stance as followers of Christ be that to pray for our enemies, pray for those who persecute you, pray that God exacts vengeance?

    What are your thought? Maybe you hinted at this and you can direct me to the post.

    • Not sure if this helps, or if this directly answers your question, but throughout the Bible, God uses the very evil He discourages us to partake in. Check out Gen 50:20, Judges 14:4, and all the texts in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, where God uses the nations to punish Israel. The author of Lamentations has some really grueling and serious reflections on this very issue.

      So, just because God used a government to skin people alive (like Assyria did to Israel in 701 B.C.), doesn’t mean that God would prescribe skinning people alive as an ethic for his people to follow.

      Not easy stuff to think through!

  4. Thanks Preston, for challenging us to emphasize the love of Christ through non-violence and thinking twice about the wars we engage in. We may not agree on every point, but I admire your passion for God’s word – not merely understanding it, but giving it hands and feet. I wholeheartedly believe this world needs more people who will dare to walk in that Shalom.

      • Sure, though I feel I probably could’ve done better listening to your overall heart and direction, rather than getting too hung up on the details. As you can tell, I do feel strongly that we have to make sure that we don’t remove Jesus away from his Bible, people, and culture. I personally am very turned off to the extreme forms of pacifism, yet at the same time realize the need for living out non-violence. I think that I also need to re-evaluate my understanding of Jesus’ sermon on the mount being confined only to neighborly matters … because there also seems to be a flavor of proactive non-violent resistance to an oppressive regime (the Romans) with statements like “go the extra mile” which wasn’t really addressed. It certainly wouldn’t be unlike Jesus to extend loving our enemy/neighbor to those beyond Jewish boundaries. Thanks again Preston.

  5. This has been my favorite of post of this series. I am especially encouraged by the approach you recommend to be “pastorally sensitive”. The idea of speaking the truth in love has largely been drown out by hammering the truth down someone’s throat or being so sensitive and “loving” that you ignore the truth for the sake of making the person you are talking to feel good.

    So thanks for your care. God Bless

  6. I’d like to address a few possible “loose ends.” When Jesus quotes Leviticus in Mt. 5:43 (love your neighbor), Lev. 19:18 defines the neighbor as “the sons of your own people.” Jesus’ hearers have already heard this being taught by fathers and rabbis. And they have also been taught to hate their enemies. Where is that? That would be passages like Lev. 26:7 (And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.) If Israel does not keep these commands, their enemies will prevail in the land (Lev. 26:16-17). Later on, Lev. 26:32-45 describes the enemies “in their land” and the lands of other enemies/nations.

    So while there are a few passages in the law of Moses that speak of showing love to certain enemies, there are many more (including a whole chapter, Deut. 20) on how to war against your enemies. Now that Jesus’ new kingdom is dawning in “Galilee of the Gentiles,” his disciples are also to be the light of the “world” by following his commands like loving enemies (including Gentiles) (Mt. 4:15-17; 5:14).

    If a disciple does not want to kill enemies, at home or in war or wherever, she also does not hide her light; she stands out in her national culture, or personal vocation, by speaking boldly on behalf of her Lord/king–and against the competing lords/kings. Disciples are only persecuted when they speak prophetically and act accordingly. She is willing to stand up and take a bullet (take up her cross) rather than “give” a bullet in order to “save” lives. Dying (not killing) is the last resort; and Jesus has overcome death.

    • The Torah actually never says to “hate your enemy”. This is an *interpretation* that Jesus disagreed with. The passages that you mention must be taken in context of God’s charge to Israel to conquer the Land of Israel and defeat their enemies.

      • Adam, if I’m hearing Lucas correctly, I think the point you bring up is the very point he’s trying to show–that there was an element of “killing your enemies” that was endorsed/commanded by Moses (not just his later interpreters, but the simple meaning of Deut 20 and others) that was (how do I say it? still looking for the best verb here…) brought to its intended goal (avoiding the terms “overturned” or “countered”) by Jesus.

        I know this post is old, but I’d love to see you guys (Lucas and Adam) respond to each other on this issue. You both bring up very good points.

        • Yeah, these are great observations. And Deut 20 does speak about war with nations inside/outside the land. But other than the command to take the land, I don’t see a command to war with foreign nations – just what to do if/when a war should happen.

          • Yes, Deut. also begins with Moses saying this to the people when they arrived at the border of the Promised Land the first time: “The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just has he did for you in Egypt before your eyes” (Deut. 1:30 RSV).
            There were promises of an angel’s protection and of a plague (hornets). The picture drawn is that, as in Egypt, the God of miracles provides for their deliverance. But in the end, the people choose their better idea. Short overview of the flow of this in chapter three of

  7. I have also stepped between warring neighbors (brothers living in the same house). On one occasion one of the guys was literally straddling the other on the ground and threatening to pummel his face. Just the fact that I had consistently reached out to them as neighbors gave me the opportunity to speak and defuse the situation (plus the fact that I am a woman and they wouldn’t hit me). Now, if a neighbor punched his wife in the face I would probably call the police.

    Preston I appreciate you touching the point that violence is not only in our actions, but in our words. How often Christians fail to speak with love, but use their tongues in a violent manner. I cringed a little bit when you wrote, “…his followers should be known as being against violence in the same way that they are against homosexuality…” The reason I cringe is that much of what is “known” about Christians being against homosexuality is violence-laced rhetoric (at least as reported in the media). Christians need to be known as a people whose words and actions are correlative with the words and actions of Christ. Your pastoral words about being *bold and gentle* is greatly appreciated.

  8. Well, I still disagree. I wonder if you have ever thought about whether service to country is a virtue. I think it is. While, it may be Greek thought, or some other thought one can label, I think that viewing virtue as a mean between extremes is very valuable. I have used it to attack atheism and other anti-Christ views. I think that war and policing is where this concept comes into play. I think God would say, “I hate war” just as he says, “I hate divorce.” And yet, divorce is allowed when one has done everything in one’s own power to make marriage work. Genesis 9 is still in force, but was never for vengeance or vigilanteism. You cannot fairly deal with Genesis 9 and take the position you have taken. When I read the points on a “Just War” many years ago, I was convinced that WWII fit that well. Nothing is perfect. I think it is easy for people in generations removed from that war to say that it was not just. But, I have personally talked to many WW II veterans and am convinced that Hitler had to be stopped. If we were a Christian nation[s], perhaps we could have all prayed and fasted and watched God work. But, we aren’t, weren’t and are not destined to be. And that does not come about by laws or announcement, but a change in each individual’s heart. History has shown that not ALL hearts choose Christ. [perhaps if you are Post-Millennial, you think that eventually the earth will be composed of Christians prior to Christ’s return, but prophecy contradicts that concept]
    I encourage you to take Scripture in its totality. Jesus endorsed Genesis and Moses. I find that to be a most powerful apologetic, working backwards in time from the Resurrection.

    • I also agree that WWII was a just war … that doesn’t mean that countries like America always made perfect decisions – but it was a “world war” after all – and I am proud that my grandfather fought in the Royal Air Force. I believe serving your country can be a virtue, especially if it is your duty as a ruler over a nation to protect your people, like a father would his household.

    • “Jesus endorsed Genesis and Moses.”

      How’s that ham sandwich? Poly-cotton sweater? And last time I saw you, Lyndell, you were clean shaving, so I’m assuming that you’ve gone back to Moses and taken him at his word.

      Point is: It’s way more complex of an issue than simply framing it as Jesus either endorsed Genesis and Moses or he didn’t.

      • Not saying that Jesus ate pork. Lyndell seemed to suggest that since Jesus “endorsed Genesis and Moses” that therefore Gen 9 is still in effect for Jesus’ followers (i.e. us). So I’m just following the same logic through with all of Genesis and all of Moses.

        Does that make better sense?

        So I’m not really trying to make an argument. Just pointing out what I see as an inconsistency for those (this is more toward Lyndell than you) who would say:

        A: Gen 9 (and other OT passages) allow violence in some cases as a just punishment (taking life, etc.)

        B: Jesus endorsed Genesis and Moses

        C: Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we are allowed to use violence for just punishment (taking life, etc.)

        This in itself doesn’t rule out whether or not Gen 9 is still applicable. All I’m calling for is a consistent hermeneutic, rather than a “pick and choose” method of how we apply the OT today (I think we’re in agreement that there needs to be consistency! Though we may disagree on the actual hermeneutic.)

        • Sure, so my question to you is WHY does Dr Sprinkle 🙂 eat pork? Is it because a) Jesus overturned food laws in his teaching or because b) Acts 15 tells us that gentiles did not have to adhere to food laws? Or both? If the Christian believes A, then sure, if he did away with one command, why not toss out everything, even moral commandments right? But maybe this one would be better over Indian food 😀

          • Ok, so maybe the pork illustration is a bad example in light of Acts 15. But what about all the other laws (poly-cotton blend, shaving the edges of your beard, tattoos, etc.) that the Moses-endorsing Jesus would have abided by an promoted since he “endorsed Genesis and Moses?”

            We don’t need to go through all 613. All I’m asking for is a consistent hermeneutic.

            I would agree with what you’re thinking 🙂 There’s an abiding principle in each of these that are still true for us (Tattoos were associated with pagan rituals, and we shouldn’t brand out bodies with signs of paganism, etc.) But Lyndell (sorry to keep throwing you under the buss, Lyndell…) and you (I think) want to maintain a very literal rendering of Gen 9 for today.

            But ya, let’s pick this up over some non-kosher Indian food 🙂

        • Well Preston, I’ve been trying to avoid a lengthy reply. I have been direct, but brief, trying to suggest more study of Genesis 9. But, when you oversimplify what I have said about Genesis 9, it sounds like I’m defending the entire Mosaic law. When in fact, I am simply saying that the instructions that were given in Genesis 9 are still in force. Genesis 9, verse five and six, brought about a change from the way that the world was before the Flood. In his commentary, “The Genesis Record,” Dr. Henry M. Morris, a scientist, engineer, and theologian in his own right, makes these comments about Genesis 9, 5-6: “Thus the blood of animals, representing their life, was sacred and not to be eaten, since it was accepted as a sacrifice and substitution for the life of man.” [It is interesting that the Jerusalem covenant in the New Testament continues this practice, but more importantly, that the very sacrifice of our Lord is a fulfillment of this; comments by Lyndell Brown].

          “Also involved was the simple matter of reference to the life principle, as a specially created entity by God (Genesis 1:21), not merely something to satisfy man’s appetite.” Genesis 9:5-6 says: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it, at the hand of every man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.” In verse six it says, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Dr. Morris has this to say about this passage: “The word “require” is a judicial term, God appearing here as a judge exacts a strict and severe penalty for infraction of a sacred law. If the beast kills man, these must be put to death (notice also Exodus 21:20). If a man kills another man (willfully and culpably it is assumed), then he also must be put to death by “every man’s brother.”
          “The latter phrase is not intended to initiate family revenge, of course, but rather to stress that all men are responsible to see that this justice is executed. At the time these words were first spoken, all men indeed were brothers; for only the three sons of Noah were living at the time, other than Noah himself. Since all future people would be descended from these three men and their wives, in a very real sense all men are brothers, because all were once in the loins of these three brothers. This is in essence a command to establish a formal system of human government, in order to assure that justice is carried out especially in the case of murder. The authority to execute this judgment of God on a murder was thus delegated to men.”

          Pages 223 and 224 the Genesis record by Dr. Henry M Morris Baker book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1956.

          This is also consistent with instructions, comments and discussions I have had over the past 39 years with professors from LABC/The Masters College. This passage is where God set up human government after the Great Flood of Noah.

          So, I respectfully submit that Genesis 9 is a very significant piece of scripture regarding the world today, which is, after all, the world after the Flood. It is very much applicable to the subject you have chosen and to any Christian who finds themselves with a debt to their country, as well as a debt to their Christ.

        • Preston, I also located a comment by J. Vernon McGee on the subject of Genesis 9:5-6, he says:

          “Now the fifth and the last statement in the new covenant is most amazing” – and he cites verse six. “Here God lays down the principal for government and protection of man. He gives the government the right of capital punishment. We have seen that in this new covenant which God has given, man is to propagate the race, he is to have the protectorate and the rulership over animals, he is given a new provision for food and a prohibition against the eating of blood. Now we see that he is given the principle of government, which is the basis of capital punishment.”

          “May I say to you that it is amazing how the attitude of the present generation has gotten away from the Bible. You see we do not have a Bible–oriented population anymore. It is almost totally ignorant of the Word of God. As a result we find the judges, lawyers, and the politicians all wanting to get rid of capital punishment. They have succeeded in many cases, and I think that finally it will be eliminated totally from American culture. At the same time we have an increase in crime and most horrible crimes taking place. I have dealt with this subject more in detail in the booklet which I entitled, “Is Capital Punishment Christian? I believe that capital punishment is scriptural and that it is the basis of government. The government has the right to take a life when that individual has taken someone else’s life. Why? Well, I think it is quite obvious that God has ruled so in order to protect human life.” Taken from “Genesis,” Volume 1, J Vernon McGee, Through the Bible Books, Pasadena, California, 1975.

  9. I loved this series! While I see there being a greater distinction between the soldier who kills an enemy of the state than a man who uses violence to solve issues than some others here, I appreciated the effort to tackle a very sensitive issue.

    I do believe that we as Christians can serve in numerous areas (including all types of military service), but the key is serve as Christ would ask us to. To not mistreat or abuse power, but to be effective as God called Israel to be. Also, I think it is important to to think about intentions for joining the military. Just because I don’t feel called, doesn’t mean others haven’t been.

    My hope is that a Christian soldier would be the best soldier of all.

    We need Christians to witness to soldiers before battles too. And right before their potential death as well.

    Just a few thoughts from my iPhone 🙂

    • “I do believe that we as Christians can serve in numerous areas (including all types of military service), but the key is serve as Christ would ask us to.”

      Definitely! And if Christ would ask us to kill the enemies of our country (whether we’re American fighting Iran, or Iranian fighting America), then we should kill as Christ would have us to. Of course, you know where I stand on “[what] Christ would ask [of] us…”

  10. Adam and Lyndell,

    I appreciate your comments and push backs, but neither of you have dealt with my actual argument. You can’t say that WWII was a just war because, well, I just think it was and my relative fought in the war, and…

    I’ve shown that BY ITS OWN CRITERIA (non-combatant immunity) it wasn’t a Just War. So you either must adjust the criteria or not call it a just war. You can’t have both.

    Re: Gen 9. I gave reasons why I do not think that this text is not authoritative for Jesus followers. Seriously, you can’t just use sweeping statements like “Jesus didn’t throw away his Bible” or “You cannot fairly deal with Genesis 9 and take the position you have taken” when I have actually dealt with the text. You may disagree with my interpretation–this is totally fine, I encounter this every day–but you must deal with and counter my argument, not just dismiss it. I could be wrong, I often am! But pleas show me WHERE I’m wrong.

    If you take service to your country as a virtue, then I would think you either 1) think that our country (America) is morally superior to other countries (which I think is mythical), or 2) you must apply this logical to all good citizens of Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, North Korea, and others. Were the suicide pilots who blow up the twin towers acting out a good virtue in service to their country?

    I’m just wondering if you’re reading things a bit too strongly through a patriotic lens, rather than a biblical one.

    • In the same way that I thank you for challenging me to be non-violent … I stand up for Lyndell’s statements here about WWII, because I believe it was a cause worth fighting for. As previously stated, that doesn’t mean that every aspect was just – surely Hiroshima was a horrible tragedy. America already had a poor relationship with Japan before the war. But that was America. There were so many other countries involved. I am so grateful for people that fought against an evil, Satanic dictator whose agenda involved a world wide genocide of the Jewish people. I shouldn’t have to argue that.

      I have made arguments against your position. so I don’t feel the need to repeat them. Although I have huge respect for you and love reading your work, I’m not convinced that we should discard Gen 9. In the same way, if I read a blog by someone arguing that stewardship of the earth in Gen 2 is no longer applicable, because Christ has set up a new “spiritual kingdom”, and our “citizenship is in heaven”, I would not be convinced either.

      This isn’t about patriotism. If you believe that a husband’s duty involves defending his family with violence when necessary, why wouldn’t you allow a ruler of a country to do the same?

      Also, according to your view, would you protect only your family if they were attacked … or would you also protect a friend? – (perhaps not someone like me, who writes annoying things on your blogs) Would you protect your neighbor? Would you protect your street? Your town? …

      • Ok, I see your point. My only question is our far can we fudge on the criteria before the Just War becomes unjust? 1/4 million non-combatants were nuked. What’s the point of the criteria if it’s expected that they will be violated?

        As far as defending my family or my neighbor’s family, I would be very militantly non-violent in my defense. (MLK used to say that he was militant in his pacifism; again, pacifism doesn’t mean passive-ness or an eager allowances of injustice. It only argues for a different means of confronting it.) Physical restraint doesn’t necessarily constitute violence. And if we ask the cliched question: what would Jesus do? I think we may arrive at something close to Tim Volz’s posture in the first few comments above.

        Ok, I’m done…gotta git to work!!

        • “One quarter million noncombatants were nuked.” I have, literally, wept about that. BUT… The estimates were that over 1 million of our combatants would have been killed in an invasion of Japan. Afterall, they would be defending their homeland in that case. Then add to that, more than 1 million combatants from Japan. Then add to that, potential millions of noncombatants killed as collateral damage during an invasion. Their war-fighting industries were in their homes! Non-combatants were making weapons in their homes in Japan. Zero noncombatants killed is never an option. It just won’t happen.

          They had made an alliance with Hitler. They, their soldiers, had raped and tortured and killed Chinese, Filipinos, Americans, British and so on. They killed noncombatants unnecessarily. They took pride in their brutality. They had to be stopped, too. As Christians, we are to protect people from evil in the most moral way we can. Understanding Genesis 9 helps me deal with all this. I think it will help you, too.

        • I have personally walked away from many fights in my life. I don’t think that we should have allowed Europe to suffer under Hitler. I don’t think policemen should let innocent citizens be attacked. I support capital punishment. It is Scriptural. These are not thoughts came to me in seconds. My position has been deliberated on, for years, even decades. Genesis 9 is at the heart of that position, including abstaining from eating blood. You tackled a tough subject. I gave tough feedback. I believe it’s because I care.

  11. I just came across your blog as I was looking at attending Eternity Bible College. I’m going to go back through and read all the installments, but in the meantime I wanted to see if I could get your opinion on a couple of thoughts.

    The topic of Christians and permissible violence, is something I am currently looking at and struggling to find the answer to.

    First, how does the fact that Christ walked with at least one armed individual (as shown in His arrest, when Peter drew HIS (own) sword) play into your view?

    The second thought is longer to explain. We as individuals are called to forgive, but the gospel also says that the function of government is to punish the evil doer. Thus, when acting as an agent of the state or in other words, within the biblical definition of a correct government, such as being in law enforcement, but a Christian, is that Christian, not authorized to exact punishment upon the evil doer. Examples:

    * Acting under government authority as a Christian judge to hand down punishment to criminals.

    * Acting under government authority as a Christian soldier on the front lines, fighting a nation engaged in committing atrocities against humans.

    * Acting under government authority as a Christian police officer to shoot and kill a criminal threatening others.

    If these are considered to be allowed, then would you not, also be allowed to:

    * Act under government authority as a Christian citizen to protect by any means necessary, your family or any other civilians in direct harm, because you are a government citizen, and thus also allowed under lawful circumstances to act as its agent.

    Thanks for any thoughts you may have the time to respond with.

  12. Glad you brought up the example of the truce of 1914. And what many do not understand is that the choices of Christians in The Great War, part I, laid the groundwork for Hitler and the sequel, Part II. A line was crossed and we reap what we sow. There is a succinct overview of this in

    On the term ‘pacifism,’ John Howard Yoder had a book on the various types. I tend to use it in its limited sense of responding to warfare. Mennonites use the term “nonresistance” and Quakers tend to use “nonviolence,” all applied more broadly. A Mennonite professor’s article on the term, “pacifism” here:

    He also has a critique of WWII as a just war on that website.

  13. A couple links that may helpful for those interested in this topic:[I just discovered them]

    From Russian Baptists:
    On Pacifism and Biblical Nonresistance

    Notes on Church History and pacifism by noted Mennonite, Prof. J.C. Wenger

    And on war in the OT, see the classic, Yahweh is a Warrior by Prof. Millard C. Lind [Mennonite]with particular attention to the Introduction by John Howard Yoder.