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Were the Early Christians Pacifists?

Mar 23, 2007

A short answer to this question would be ‘yes’. End of article. But as with many historical issues, the proper answer in fact is much more nuanced. ‘Yes and no’ would be a more accurate response. While it is generally accepted that the early church tended to be pacifistic, scholars debate the extent of this, and how many exceptions can be found.

While scholarship on these questions has moved on somewhat from 1960, the summary statement penned back then by Roland Bainton in his classic Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace is worth recalling: “The age of persecution down to the time of Constantine was the age of pacifism to the degree that during this period no Christian author to our knowledge approved of Christian participation in battle. The position of the Church was not absolutist, however. There were some Christians in the army and they were not on that account excluded from communion.”

That much is clear. But questions of why this is so need to be dealt with. What were the reasons for this pacifism and how do we account for it? It seems that there are at least seven considerations that must be explored as we grapple with these issues.

One. A major reason why we find pacifism so pronounced back then is simply one of Christian convictions. The early believers felt that they were being Christ-like in pursuing nonviolence, and they would have held up the example of Christ in this regard. Just as Christ eschewed violence, so did they.

Now for our pacifist friends, this is the reason, and basically the end of the story. Jesus is our model; he committed no violence, and that should be our standard. However the considerations which follow need to be factored into all of this.

Moreover, the whole issue of Christ and his example, and the relevant texts from the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, need to be dealt with in some detail. That cannot here be done.

However for the reader who is interested in such a discussion, a lengthy yet informative, stimulating and hopefully worthwhile debate on this topic between two believers can be found on my website. One article which I penned on the subject, “Is it Ever Right To Kill?,” resulted in an on-going debate between myself and a Christian of strong pacifist leanings. You can see that full debate here: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/11/is-it-ever-right-to-kill/

(Unfortunately, perhaps, my sparring partner there will undoubtedly take me on here, so the debate may be never-ending!)

Two. It needs to be remembered that Jews back then were exempt from military service in the Roman forces. In fact, they were for the most part forbidden from serving in the imperial army. Since most Christians were converts from Judaism in the early decades of the church, they would continue to have benefited from these exemptions/prohibitions. So to a large extent military involvement simply was not an option for them.

Three. Christians were mostly a persecuted minority sect in those early centuries. They were struggling to simply stay alive. And they were on a mission to spread the gospel far and wide. Thus the question of joining the military was not much of an option for them, just as the question of joining in politics, or getting involved in various social and public affairs really was not much of a choice for them back then.

Moreover, if the Roman army was a chief means by which the government persecuted Christians, it would have been unthinkable for Christians to join in with them. And it would have been difficult to participate in public life of any kind when so often the early believers were hiding to stay alive, dwelling in the catacombs, etc.

Four. Military life was rife with idolatry and pagan practices back then. Roman army religion was a thorough part of the military experience, complete with idolatrous ceremonies and festivals. Chief among the idolatrous practices was emperor worship. All soldiers had to swear an oath to the emperor. This obligatory oath demanded unquestioning loyalty to the emperor as the highest authority.

With all this idolatry going on, it would have been very difficult indeed for a Christian to consider becoming involved. And if a person was already a soldier, and then became a Christian, he would have had great difficulty indeed.

Thus part of the reason why there was a marked increase in Christian participation in the military after Constantine was simply because he changed or removed those idolatrous circumstances. Indeed, by AD314 at the Synod of Arles, Christians were given freedom to serve in the army.

Five. The expansion of Christianity mainly occurred among civilians in the urban centres. Christianity had most adherents in the cities and in the interior of the Roman Empire. Christians were fewest at the frontiers, where the legions were most in number. Thus there was less likelihood of Christians being involved in the military, simply because of these geographical factors.

Six. There is no record of any conciliar decree against military service for the entire pre-Constantinian era. While Bainton may be correct to say no early church writer approved of military involvement, very few appear to have condemned it either. Indeed, a number of theologians and church historians have argued that pacifists have overstated their case here, and there is a fair amount of evidence showing Christian military involvement during this period, especially in the second half of the period under question.

Seven. The early church of course looked for Christ’s imminent return. Certainly in the earliest years there was a strong expectation of an imminent Parousia. Over time of course this expectation diminished, as the realisation sunk in that the second coming of Christ may not be taking place as soon as was expected. But believing that activity of any kind on planet earth was short lived would have kept many Christians from entering into “worldly” occupations, at least in the early decades of the young church.

Concluding Thoughts

These various considerations need to be kept in mind as we deal with the question of the pacifist nature of the early church. Some of these points are stronger than others, but taken together they provide an intellectual framework by which we can understand the question at hand. At the very least, these considerations demonstrate that theological or ethical reasons were not the only ones involved in the general Christian non-involvement in the military. There were equally good political and social reasons as well.

But the whole exercise is quite a different matter than the issue of whether the New Testament in fact teaches and enjoins pacifism. That is a theological, biblical and hermeneutical issue that cannot here be covered. Instead, it will be the subject of another article for another day.

Secondly, this discussion really just focuses on the question of Christian involvement in the military. Related issues have not been addressed here, but also warrant discussion. For example, what about self-defense? Is the use of force ever justifiable? What about just war theory? And what do we make of capital punishment? How do we understand war in a nuclear age? All of these are separate questions that also need to be fleshed out in order to get a more well-rounded and biblical understanding of the question of pacifism and Christian conscience. It is the stuff of yet more articles for yet more days to come.

Third, while the broad issues of war and peace are quite important, and Christian reflection, discussion and even debate are needed on them, to my mind they are secondary, not primary, concerns for the Christian. That is, one’s view of pacifism does not make or break one’s Christianity. Believers can agree to disagree on these difficult issues.

There will be both pacifists and just-war supporters in heaven, in other words. While some in the “peace churches” may argue that this is a primary issue of concern, most believers would say it is certainly an important topic, but not one which should unnecessarily divide believers or break Christian fellowship.

Finally, and in a more broad direction, why do I keep writing on such controversial topics? My life would be a whole lot easier, and I would get a lot less flak, if I simply stuck to inconsequential topics such as my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, or why I like the Geelong footy club.

But as difficult and potentially divisive as these various topics are which I regularly write about, they are quite important topics. They are topics which thinking Christians – indeed, all Christians – should be concerned with. We are called to love God with our minds, and biblical reflection on the contentious issues of the day is part of our calling to be salt and light.

Sure, one can make a lot of enemies – or at least step on a lot of toes – when one deals with such issues, but we cannot hide our heads in the sand, and pretend these issues do not exist, or do not concern us. They will generate passionate discussions and emotions will flare up, but we must address these pressing issues of the day, or risk being seen as being completely irrelevant to our day and age.

So I will expect to see some lively debate and commentary on this issue, as with my other posts. It becomes a full-time job to take on my various critics – Christian and non-Christian alike – but it is important that the vital issues of the day are debated in public, and are treated to rigorous biblical and theological reflection. Happy thinking and happy blogging!

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19 Responses to Were the Early Christians Pacifists?

  • Of course, Christianity teaches pacifism. The Bible says (NPV (New Pacifist Version) 😉

    Luke 3:14– “Soldiers also asked him [John the Baptist] , “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages,” and above all, you must leave the army immediately.”

    Acts 10:47–“Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people [Cornelius, family and close friends] , who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’

    “‘Nay Pater, thou mayest not, because Cornelius is a centurion in the Italian regiment. He must first resign his commission because war is wrong under all circumstances.‘”

    Seriously though, Jesus praised peacemakers not “pacifists”. He praised a Roman centurion, already highly regarded as a lover of God’s people, for having greater faith than anyone in Israel, without the slightest hint that his military calling was wrong (Luke 7:1-9).

    Jesus even presented an illustration of a king with 10,000 men facing a king with 20,000 men, and the former would try to seek peace terms (Luke 14:31-32). So He affirmed that a strong national defence can prevent war. Churchill and Reagan, consciously or not, advocated this policy. Churchill was not heeded, and Britain nearly lost to Hitler as a result. Reagan got his way and thus won the cold war.

    Paul affirmed that the Government does not bear the sword in vain (Romans 13). This is a clear metaphor for the right of the government to kill wrongdoers. And there was no hint that believers shouldn’t become part of this, otherwise there should be no Christian policemen or prison warders either.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Jonathan
    Yes this terrain is being pretty heavily trodden on in a debate at another post (see the link mentioned above). A lot of ink is being spilled on it (or rather, a lot of keyboards are being worn out on it). That discussion, growing to mammoth proportions, shows no signs of letting up. But it is an important issue and one worth sinking our collective teeth into.

    Therefore, readers are welcome to keep adding comments, either to this post or to the other one. If nothing else, it keeps us off the streets, I guess!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There is also the account of Jesus’ arrest where Peter draws his sword and cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear. The pacifists need to account for why Peter would even be carrying a sword after three years under the instruction of Jesus. Peter cops a rebuke from Jesus for this action but notably there is no rebuke for carrying a sword.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Excellent and provocative post! I look forward to the next one on this topic. I thought I’d add also, apart from the Biblical examples given, the modern day ones. During the second world war, there are notable examples of Christians praying at crucial points of the WWII and things being turned around (an echo of the battle waged by the Israelites and whenever Moses’ hands were not raised, the Israelites would lose the war).
    Also, there’s an excellent website called Zion’s Fire (created by a Christian group) which give the remarkable history of Israel and miraculous events which took place against huge odds which could only have been the Hand of God in action. It’s clear that God has used war to diffuse potentially disastrous situations and to rout tyrants again and again. This of course doesn’t fully address whether or not it should be the Christian’s hand that pulls that trigger, but it tends to reveal that God at least uses the instrument of war to intervene in history.
    Dee Graf

  • Jesus was a pacifist in the pure sense of that word. He was not a peacemaker. On the contrary, he even stated that he did not come to bring peace but division. Why did Peter draw the sword and cut off the servant’s ear? Because Peter didn’t know better. Even Jesus told him to put away his sword. And never forget, it was Jesus who did just the opposite with the servant. He healed his ear. He didn’t hurt the man like Peter but did good to him.

    If you do your research properly, you will discover that being a pacifist was absolutely mandatory for being a christian in the early church. To state that the centurion who was baptized by Peter was justified to serve in the army is simply taking that example out of context. That man loved the Jews. He built their synagogues and gave to the poor. Scripture does not say he remained in the army. God saw his heart and out of love for him, sent him Peter who would reveal a deeper truth that hadn’t been revealed to him up till that time.

    Constantine was undeniably the greatest heretic for taking the name of Christ and using it to kill others. If he had any idea of the teachings of Christ, he would know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus taught without question, “Love your enemies”. Killing them as though you were doing God a service is a fallacy that lead many Christians down the wrong way.

    The sad thing of all is that this fallacy has been justified over and over again until this present day. Killing never brings peace, not even when it’s called “Just war”. When anyone takes the life of another person who was never saved, he takes from him his chance of salvation. Nobody will be held innocent on the Day of Judgement who has terminated the life of another person who was not saved. Christians were called to lay their life down for their friends, but even for their enemies. That is how a war is won. That is the nature of Christ, who went to his death like a slaughtered lamb. Who do we think we are that we are better than he was and fight for our life or take the life of another person? Sorry to tell you if you haven’t heard otherwise, but the “Just War” principle was one of Satan’s greatest achievements. Blessed are those though who lost their lives as pacifists, who were imprisoned for being a pacifist and were hated and treated as scum for being a pacifist. They are the ones who share in Christ’s glory.
    Johann Blake

  • Thanks Johann

    But you are putting your ideological blinders on the Scriptures here. Jesus is God, and God commanded or allowed killing (as in the death penalty, self-defence and just war). I have made this case in various places, including these:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/11/is-it-ever-right-to-kill/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/11/on-capital-punishment-part-1/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/12/on-capital-punishment-part-2/

    And you obviously have real problems with the book of Revelation. Try giving it a read sometime. Who is worshipped in heaven for using the sword to strike down the enemies of God? Try chapters 18 and 19 for example. This is the same Jesus you are trying to turn into a pacifist. Sorry, but I will stick with the Bible on this one.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Raised a Lutheran, my brother was on his way to Germany when the war ended. While guarding German prisoners he wanted to know why they killed other Christians. They said they were told by their chaplains, and clergy that God was on Hitler’s side! Am I wrong to conclude that their churches and chaplains, obeying “traditions of men that make void the word of God” (Matt. 15 and Mark 7) committed gross sin against Jesus’ “new commandment” to “love one another?” Aren’t clergy today’s pharisees???
    Jerry Stenstrom

  • Thanks Jerry

    Two issues must be kept separate here. Christians are not forbidden to serve in the military or police forces. Thus a Christian may find himself – as a policeman – arresting another Christian, or a Christian – as a judge – might find himself sentencing another Christian to life imprisonment. In a fallen world this will happen all the time.

    It is another matter whether a Christian could have served in good faith in the Nazi military machine, or in a government that has clearly overstepped its biblical boundaries. Then the issue of civil disobedience may arise, which I have discussed elsewhere: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/02/christians-and-civil-disobedience/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Please let us not deceive ourselves, on no account should a christian, drop the bible, pick up AK 47 , heads to war and starts snuffing lives out of people, why-
    1. Luke 3;14(KJV) “do violence to no man….” It didnt say do violence to enemy soldiers or your enemies.It didnt say either do no violence to your friend and collegues. what is violence? act of hurting or killing someone. In short he was telling them to get out of the millitary becaus e there is no way you cant do violence in military.
    2. Hebrews 12:2, (KJV) “looking unto Jesus….” Jesus is to be our example . He never enlisted in the army ,like wise we. And , I cant believe that Jesus if He is alive today will leave the main purpose of His coming (“that the world through Him might be saved” John 3:17), to save the sinners and armed robbers and start sending them untimely to hellfire. Christ is not willing that any should perish,but for them to repent and go to heaven (2 Peter 3;9, Luke 5:31).He Christ has given us this mandate too,(John20:21), and not to carry guns ,bombs and knives.
    3. John 10:10(KJV) “the thief (satan) cometh not but to steal ,kill, and destroy…” This is what is done mainly in war. War is the will of satan and christians should not help satan fufill his will. We should fulfill the will of God which is to make disciples of all nations(both enemy nations and friendly nations-Matthew 28:19). the will of God on the other hand is also that all (both enemies and friends, both sinners and saints) people should have life and life abundant ( have life on earth and more abundantly in eternity).
    4. 2 Corinthians 10:4(NKJV) “the weapon of our warfare are not carnal(physical; as in AK 47,BOMBS,KINVES,POISONS, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, e.t.c) but mighty in God (prayers) for pulling down strongholds”. If prayers of faith can move mountains what is the need of moving the mountain with AK 47.
    5. 1 John 2:15-17,(NKJV) “love not the world…” As christians we should sepearate from the world and its associations-2 Corithians 6:14 -18, should we be fighting and protecting the world we a re commanded to disassociate from and hate.
    6. Galatians 5;20 (KJV), a christian should not fight and should be free from strife which is fighting and war is such.
    7. Numbers 31:19-20(KJV), if those who killed in war commanded by God is seen as unclean and hence sinners by him, what about those who killed in wars commanded by man with selfishness and gredd as undertone.
    Colin Aduah
    From Nigeria.

  • Thanks Colin

    But with all due respect I am afraid that simply lifting texts out of their context does not establish an argument.

    1 You are way off with Luke 3:14. It is the Greek that we want to faithfully translate, and all the newer versions are much more accurate here. A good rendering of the Greek would be: “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” as the NIV has it. Thus this has nothing at all to do with warfare. Indeed, if being a soldier was evil, John would have said straight out in answer to their question: ‘leave the military at once – it is an evil occupation’. But he did not say that. Why not?

    2 Of course we look to Jesus. But this has absolutely nothing to do with whether military involvement or warfare is biblically acceptable. If you think the use of force is completely wrong, then you had better stop looking to Jesus. He used plenty of force when he overturned the tables in the temple. And he will use a heck of a lot more force when he comes again, mounted on a war horse, with sword in hand, judging his enemies.

    3 Do you in fact believe that God cannot or does not kill? Then you must throw away most of your Bible. He strikes people dead athroughout the Bible. Indeed, we are told to fear this God who has the power to not only kill the body but the soul as well (Matt 10:28).

    4 Paul of course is talking about our spiritual interaction with the world. We of course have heavenly weapons. We do not evangelise or witness by threatening people with force. But that again has nothing to do with the fact that God has ordained the state and the use of force to minister justice in a fallen world,

    5 What does loving the world have to do with whether or not warfare is biblically justified? In the world people also eat and breathe and sleep. Should those activities be taboo for the Christian as well because they happen to occur in the world? I am afraid you are not thinking very carefully or biblically here.

    6 This passage of course describes how the Christian should live his life as a disciple of Jesus. Again, it has absolutely nothing to do with how God has ordained the State to use force to maintain justice and punish evil. You simply confuse the personal ethics of the Christian walk with our God-given obligations to administer justice via the state in a fallen world.

    7 This verse answers your whole comment. Who commanded the war Colin? It was God’s idea. If war is so evil and sinful as you want to suggest, then how can God command it? Indeed, there are many dozens of verses in the Bible where God is called a Warrior (Ex. 15:3, eg), where he orders warfare (Josh 8:1, eg), and where he teaches us how to go to battle (Ps 18:34, eg).

    Sorry, but you seem to lack some basic Bible knowledge and some basic biblical interpretation skills. I presume there are some good theological schools in Nigeria. You might check them out if you have the time.

    But thanks for writing in. Blessings,
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for this article Bill. I can wholly agree with your points above. I’m starting to read your posts from y’day and their imbedded links.
    David Roberts

  • Not entering into the debate here, just expressing my perspective.

    I am not a pacifist in the strict sense of the word. I think individuals can practice self-defense using proportionate force. I also think that governments can use proportionate force to protect the sovereignty of a nation against aggressors or to protect the common good within a nation.

    For all practical purposes, I’m pretty close to a pacifist. I think the instances in which wars and other bloody conflict is justified are very limited. I think the times where they are prudent are even more limited. In most all instances, I think the more morally upright thing to do is to suffer injustice rather than resort to violence, though I don’t think there is an obligation in justice to do this.

    I think that the Church should be associated with peace making. Although I don’t think that historical instances like the Battle of Lepanto were bad (Europe was being invaded, after all), I think it’s unfortunate that the times Christians resorted to violence is better remembered than the times Christians suffered injustice and even death rather than take up arms.

    I’m glad that this has changed to a large extent in the modern world. When the Catholic Pope of Rome, John Paul II, came out against the Iraq war, that seems to me to be the right thing to have done. The recent comments of the current Pope, Benedict XVI, about peace and avoiding war also seem like the right thing. Those who represent Christianity in the eyes of the world have a special duty to avoid the appearance of militarism and to stand up for the Prince of Peace.

    Joseph Anthony

  • Thank you for this article, by the way. My comment above was simply to say that I think we should take wisdom from the early Church, and promote peace rather than war. We should be content to undergo injustices or even persecution so that we can live with each other in the peaceful love of Jesus.
    Joseph Anthony

  • Thanks for your thoughts Joseph

    I am not a Catholic but I know a bit about Catholic social teaching on war and peace. I write about it here for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/05/killing-and-catholic-social-teaching/

    As to the idea of suffering injustice, individual Christians may choose to do this, but governments cannot and must not. And when an innocent third party is targeted, Christians also have an obligation to protect them and maintain justice. But I discuss all that in more detail here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/20/difficult-bible-passages-matthew-539/

    If you want to take this further, I have 44 articles in my War and Peace section. These, for example, might be of help:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/04/the-death-penalty-justice-and-the-gospel/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/07/14/muddled-thinking-on-war-peace-and-justice/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’m a Christian pacifist – cards on the table. I’ve had the argument over and over, and I’m not interested in having it again right now. But one other thing is troubling to me: your references to Old Testament passages where God commands killing. You get into dangerous territory with that. It’s not just killing that is commanded in these passages; it’s total war, torture, rape, and terrorism. Jesus’ teaching on the love of enemies is clearly opposed to such things. Whether based on inerrancy, verbal plenary inspiration, or some other variant, the basic approach to the Bible is problematic. The Bible is not monolithic; it’s a library not a monograph. It was composed by many people who did not always agree. Just rebutting people by saying “read your Bible” is not enough. There must be some thoughtful consideration of hermeneutics.
    Zach Gleason

  • Thanks Zach

    You come here saying you have no intention to argue and debate, but then you come here anyway and argue and debate!

    Yes it is vital that a sound biblical hermeneutic underscores our discussions here. I don’t know about yours, but mine, in part, goes like this:
    -My biblical hermeneutic says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).
    -My biblical hermeneutics says God never changes, and his attributes are fully functioning at all times, and in both Testaments.
    -My biblical hermeneutic says God has every right to give life and to take it away, and he can use intermediaries (like Israel, or the state), if he so chooses to accomplish his purposes.
    -My biblical hermeneutics says that the same meek and mild baby Jesus is coming again and will ride a warhorse with sword in hand, dripping in blood as he executes just judgment on the ungodly. And the massive praise session in heaven will be great because of that very judgment (try reading the book of Revelation some time).
    It seems that you do not like all these biblical truths, but that is up to you and God to sort out. I prefer to agree with God, rather than tell him what to do or how to act.

    But for a fuller treatment of when it is morally and biblically legitimate to kill, see some of my other writings, such as:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/11/is-it-ever-right-to-kill/

    As to Canaan, the very simple answer is that this was of course a once-off command issued to a specific people at a specific time in a specific place. It is not an ongoing marching order for others, including Christians today. And God is certainly justified in executing judgments on ungodliness any time he likes, and he can use his own people to do so. And of course we know that that wickedness of the Canaanites was full at this time – something which was not the case 400 years earlier, as we read in Gen. 15:16. All the iniquity, including child sacrifice, required just punishment, something a holy and righteous God is fully entitled to mete out. Indeed, if he did not, he would not be holy and righteous and just. But of course when Israel later went off the rails he judged them as well – sometimes even by using foreign nations!

    And your description of all this sounds like the sort of silliness I get all the time from atheists and other misotheists, not from those claiming to be biblical Christians. You may be on dangerous grounds indeed if you are sitting in judgment on God, pretending you are somehow more moral and ethical than he is.

    But of course you give things away when you show you do not even regard the Word of God to be a reliable, accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy document which should form the basis of all our doctrine and ethics. It of course is one book, comprised of 66 books written by 40 authors over a 1400 year period. But because it has divine authorship as well as human authorship, it can be counted on to offer us true truth in all that it affirms and speaks to. But if you have a weak view of Scripture, it is no surprise that you tend to sound more like an ornery atheist than a biblical Christian. Respectfully, until you get that issue sorted out, I would think that you will not get very far with anything else God has said or done.

    But thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I meant I wasn’t going to argue pacifism. I wont so long as the hermeneutic issue stands between us.

    What you’ve described as your hermeneutic is not in fact a hermeneutic at all. I can only assume the hermeneutic you build from is one of inerrancy and plenary inspiration. Whatever framework we have would then affects what we believe about those things you’ve listed.

    The immoral behavior which is asserted to have been commanded by God at the conquest of Canaan is one problem among many. Standing commandments which amount to rape and terrorism must be dealt with as such; they were not ‘once-off commands.’

    But I’ll live and let live. Of course I disagree with your somewhat-literal, future-looking way of reading Revelation (which, by the way, I have read – and can be reverently read in a different way from you). I disagree that my view is somehow weak. But it doesn’t appear that we have much common ground to build from, so I don’t see much point in further ad hominem and innuendo.

    Zach Gleason

  • Thanks Zach

    But you’re still arguing!

    And to have a biblical hermeneutic presupposed that one believes the Bible to be God’s word – that it is a trustworthy and authoritative book which speaks truth in all that it affirms. But it seems that is not your view at all. Thus why not have a secular humanist hermeneutic here, or any other one?

    And if the Bible is full of mistakes and is just basically a collection of human writings, then why are you bothered to even discuss particular texts? It seems that a poor view of Scripture would mean no matter what hermeneutic I employ, or what passages I appeal to, you will simply dismiss it all as fallible human words. In which case, of course, end of discussion. Indeed, we could say the same about your comments: mere fallible human words. At least that would be accurate.

    And your continued judgment of God and his supposed immorality is still a huge worry. Why should anyone take your morality as being superior to God’s? Why do you sit in judgment on God, pretending that your moral standards are somehow higher and nobler than God’s?

    I get this sort of talk all the time from my atheist buddies – I expect to hear it from them. But I do not expect those who claim to be Christians to be talking this way. So yes an impasse remains. I have a high view of Scripture and an even higher view of God. It seems that you do not. Not much common ground there I am afraid.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for the article. I have had a few of these discussions in the last year and they basically always go the same way. I thank God for the Bible, and the amazing unity found in it. It is utterly impossible for man to have written this book, and we don’t even need “evidence that demands a verdict” to prove it. The proof is in the reading of it(enough for me anyways). If you start with pacifism and/or thinking you are more loving or just than the “OT God”, the Bible will confuse you, as some are very confused here. Try coming to God’s word to be taught and changed, and you will find it is very straightforward. I find the seamless flow of history per God’s design all the way from Adam to Jesus, including Canaan and most violent of all, the flood. Stop being offended by God and try being offended that we would dare sin against Him, get His viewpoint and start from that center, the rest will fall into place properly. Thanks for the good article. And thanks also pacifists for commenting especially using verses, it helps me to see how you are thinking it through.
    Matt Purvis

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