Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pacifism vs. non-violence

Over the last couple of years, I've been on a spiritual journey of sorts. I read a book with a guy when I was living in Pekin that challenged me in regards to my stance about war and violence. So, in the past couple years, I've started to label myself an "almost pacifist." Really, I would have to say that I probably still believe in "just-war theory," but that's a discussion for another time. Here's the point of the post. Over the last couple of days I've been listening to the Mars Hill podcast, specifically the series, "Calling all Peacemakers," and something (I don't know if Rob Bell actually said it or not), became clear in my mind: the difference between pacifism & non-violence). "Pacifism" as a term hasn't really settled with me because, when I think of "pacifism," I think of non-involvement -- of disengagement. "Non-violence," however suggest that there are things I should "fight for" but always on the principle of non-violence. Sorry...I don't have time to say more here...but if you have questions, please leave them in the comments and I'll try to respond.


nick said...

Sorry if this is going to seem a bit tangenty, but I promise it'll hopefully get somewhere:

In old testament times, I'm of the understanding that you weren't a good Yahwist unless you were a good warrior. The two went hand in hand. War was simply a part of life, and God called for war often.

Now I'm also of the understanding that the Bible can be read and interpreted a number of different ways. (It seems to me, though, that in many cases people like to gloss over what the o.t. has to say and skip straight on ahead to new testament. Not what you're doing just an observation of what I sometimes am guilty of.) As Christians, a word created a 1,000 years after David was waging wars, how are we to address what the old testament says about war? Do we interpret it contextually and say that it was something that was exclusive to the time period? As Christians is the term "just war" a war sponsored by God, one that would encompass Biblical principles? How as Christians do we even determine what "just war" is? Lots of questions, just curious to hear your thoughts if you get the time.

ckd said...

thanks Nick!!

I'm reading through the OT with my small group, and I have to admit that the OT is tough. The real question -- as I read the OT -- is, "what is the level of direct application of the OT to my life today?" I don't think Christian's just skip over it, at least I know I don't...but I would say, that Jesus' teachings, particularly in the NT regarding non-violence, show a dramatic change from the OT, so basically the idea is that the NT, in this case, supersedes the OT.

Secondly -- if you follow the link the "just war theory" -- you'll see some of the criterion that philosphers, ethicists and theologians have formulated to answer the question "what is a 'just war'"

nick said...

charlie, another question/response:

The idea that parts of the Bible supercede others is a difficult one for me to swallow. I completely see how Jesus' direct teaching would would "carry more weight" than what the o.t. would say, but if I grant the idea that parts of the Bible supercede others then I feel like the relavancy of the former scripture isn't worth much, if anything. Then I start questioning which parts of scripture I should actually be looking to as the best fit for a given situation. It's all God-breathed, but at the same time it sheds a shadow of doubt for me. Does that make sense?

That "just war" link was definately something to think about.

Screwtape said...

I have always been under the impression that the concept of YAHWEH, minus the vowels, originally was the god of war in pre-Abraham Hebrew polytheism. That in order for the concept of monotheism to "work" in a patriarchal society, that war-god mentality had to be carried through in the Old Testament only to be completed or fulfilled in the victory of Jesus. Matthew, who wrote to a Jewish crowd trying to reconcile the Torah with these new teachings, wrote, "I have not come to abolish them (the Law and the Prophets)but to fulfill them" (NIV). The fact that Matthew wrote to a Jewish crowd tying to reconcile the differences between OT and NT before they even existed as they do now is one the reasons why I think it is the first book of the NT. (Matthew the Jewish Rabbi, Mark as the chronicler which the other three are probably based on, Luke, the physician who wrote to a Roman government concerned about the rhetoric of 'King of the Jews,' and John the mystic; 'In the beginning was the Word . . .')

Its important to note that I'm not well read or researched on the above subject; just some ramblings that I felt compelled to add. >shrugs<

viclyn said...

I think the redemptive trend shows a move toward non-violence. Jesus' teachings, in my mind, are of utmost importance to a Christian. If Jesus and Moses were standing in front of me, I would see Jesus as my leader. I think Moses would, too. Not all scripture is relevant to any situation and for me, I will start my search for scripture in many situations in the teachings of Jesus, not the history of Israel. (this does not mean that the OT does not apply or is irrelevant, I just don't start there usually)

ckd said... looking back..."superceded" is the wrong fault..."fulfilled" is the better word.

I think Vicky's right. This idea of "redemptive" trend seems to apply to this situation as well as others.

A couple of years ago I was using the terminology, "the evolution of God," as we see God change, over time, the way he relates to his creation.

I know this goes against a simple understanding of the immutability of God, but I don't think immutability is as simple as "God never changes, period."

nick said...
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nick said...

In regards to the name Yahweh a la my Old Testament literature class and notes this past semester: the name Yahweh is the proper name for the God of Abraham, not to be confused with the name "Jehovah". Pious Jews thought it taboo to ever pronounce the name YHWH (no vowels since the words of the Hebrew Bible were written only with consonants) and instead wrote vowels for the Hebrew word Adonai, which means "my lord", underneath the consonants YHWH. Add the consonants of YHWH with the vowel points of Adonai and bam, you've got the starting of the word "Jehovah".

Back to what I was saying earlier though, about NT vs. OT relavency: I asked my New Testament lit teacher today what he thought about NT work superceding in certain areas over what the OT said, and he responded somewhat like you said Charlie. While the OT does speak of war, Christ seems much more pacifistic. The two works work in hand to flesh each other out--basically leaving you and me to come up with our own Biblicly based response.

JGanschow said...

All very good points. I am of the understanding that since we are living in the New Convenant, and that Jesus came to redeem and reveal God's truth (since we mere humans weren't "getting it" at the time), that what HE taught about loving your neighbor, enemy, and everyone in between is the true will of God. Therefore, non-violence should always be the answer. However, non-involvement can lead to corruption or war in itself.

"Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men." -the boondock saints

ckd said...

"All that is necessarily for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing."

-Edmund Burke