32 responses to Jim Cates: The Amish and War
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    Derek J.
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 09:16)

    I wonder what the Amish leadership would do if faced with extinction not unlike what is happening to Christian believers in certain Islamic states. Passivity is one thing but if it means elimination or eradication of their faith and church then what? Is that then accepted as God’s will and so be it? Amish escaped Europe to a new world, a free new world. Where would they go now, what would they do?

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      Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 21:56)

      If you would read (maybe you have already) books like Martyrs Mirror or the Hutterian Chronicles, you would see that in the early days of Anabaptism, there were times when it almost seemed that the nonresistant people would be wiped out. However, just like in the early church, the more they martyred, the faster they spread. Thus the famous saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
      WARNING: if you read The Hutterian Chronicles, get ready for blood and guts and heart-wrenching stories of Turks coming and stealing wives to sell on the slave markets … and things I wont even write about here. Gruesome is the words.
      And they practiced nonresistance through it all … (a few didnt, but most did).

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    Debbie H
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 10:20)

    Derek J. I believe the Amish and all other Christians will do what they always have done, Continue to meet together. Even in those countries oppressed by Muslim factions Christians are still meeting together, risking their lives to worship God in Jesus name.

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    Naomi Wilson
    Comment on Pacifism vs. nonresistance (January 29th, 2015 at 10:38)

    Pacifism vs. nonresistance

    I’m not sure about the use of the term pacifism to describe Amish Christian actions.

    I was raised in a liberal, pseudo-Christian culture that expected it’s members to use pacifism, a non-violent means to protest or resolve earthly conflicts, usually political in nature.

    In contrast, as a now born again Christian and member of a conservative Anabaptist fellowship, I would distinguish pacifism from Christian non-resistance, which is participation in a spiritual battle in which the believer should, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, return good for evil, in the face of persecution. Non-resistance transcends earthly conflicts. Jesus said: “if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” It is in simple obedience to Jesus’ commands to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

    In response to Derek’s question, “what if it means elimination or eradication of their faith and church?”
    God has promised that his word would be preserved. (Psalm 12) It is up to Him to preserve his word. It is up to us to obey it, even when it flies in the face of human reason.

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      Leon Moyer
      Comment on not pacifism (January 29th, 2015 at 16:48)

      not pacifism

      Naomi Wilson has it correct: The lynch pin of Mennonite and Amish faith that distinguishes them from other protestant faiths is non-resistance, the turning of the other check, of being kind to those who abuse and mistreat you. This is not the same as pacifism, which only seeks a peaceful solution to conflicts and war. The teachings of Jesus in Matt. 5 are not those of pacifism but of non-resistant love which is not aimed at peace on earth for the nations, but peace within the believer’s heart due to absence of conflict with their fellow man. Matt.5 : “44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
      45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
      46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
      47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
      48 Be ye therefore perfect,…”

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      A component of a wider belief of nonresistance

      My understanding as it relates to the Amish is that their stance towards participation in war and the military is but a component of a wider-ranging belief of nonresistance (mentioned in my short intro to Jim’s piece above). And that “nonresistant” is the term or concept that they would most readily use to describe themselves in this area.

      My read of this article was that Jim was targeting one specific component of the broader belief here in discussing “pacifism”, specifically how the Amish relate to war and society’s expectations regarding military service. I realize that pacifism as a term can carry certain historical and political connotations, but took it in this context at its basic meaning of opposition to war and bearing of arms against others.

      For what it’s worth the link I provided in the first line of the intro goes into more detail on the broader meaning of nonresistance and the other aspects it envelops for the Amish besides their stance towards war and use of military force.

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      Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 10:19)

      Your comment is helpful to me because I often interchange the terms – pacificism & nonresistant. It helps to see some of the differences.

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      Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 10:22)

      Naomi, thanks for your helpful distinction between the two terms, pacifist and nonresistant.
      In my service/ministry (whatever one wants to call it) helping former-Amish adapt to non-Amish life, I find that many don’t know their Anabaptist heritage.

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    Alice Mary
    Comment on Peace via war (January 29th, 2015 at 10:39)

    Peace via war

    The Amish came here for the freedom of religion they weren’t allowed in Europe (as evidenced by their persecution there). But that freedom here was “bought” with the lives of many who actively fought for it…as well as those who weren’t fighting, but were “collateral damage.” This, I’m sure, is a real dilemma for the Amish…as it is for many of us Englishers.

    As the Bible tells us, there’s a time for war, a time for peace. Yet, as shown in Mr. Cates’ posting, it also espouses pacifism.

    There’s the rub.

    Alice Mary

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    Gayle Grabowski
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 14:43)


    Thank you for an excellent and timely article on this subject. I enjoyed the book “Mennonites, Amish, and The American Civil War” by Lehman and Nolt for its honest look at how the Civil War effected the Plain People just as deeply as it effected the rest of the nation. Members of the Peace Churches were one of the first people to speak out against slavery; not all members felt obligated to maintain a position of non-resistance. However, their right to religious freedom as demonstrated by non-resistance was a hard fought battle as well.

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    Leon Moyer
    Comment on no support for military, Jim (January 29th, 2015 at 17:06)

    no support for military, Jim

    Jim: Here is your quote from above, which I believe is contrary to scripture: “Instead, Christ preached humility and passivity in the face of governmental oppression, including support of the military (His admonishment in Matthew 5:41, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go the second mile as well” refers to the authority of Roman soldiers to conscript civilians to carry their armor and belongings for one mile.)”
    While there may have been times in history when soldiers conscripted civilians to give support to the military, the Jesus very clearly used the word “ANYONE” when giving this doctrinal command, so it applies to any person and situation where something is “forced” to do something. Does this imply when a judge gives you a speeding fine, you should pay even more? 🙂 I jest, but the point is, Christians do not support the military, to pay for war and pray for peace is an anomaly, we don’t give money to the abortion clinic and then pray they don’t give any abortions, neither is the believer required to financially support gov’t–no man can serve two masters, and those in God’s kingdom do not try and keep one foot in Caesar’s kingdom. See Matt: 17: 24 (THE CHILDREN OF GOD’S KINGDOM ARE FREE, the money in the fish’s mouth was the Levitical temple tax for two people, Jesus and Peter.). “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
    25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
    26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
    27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
    IT IS NICE to note how even this act was one of non-resistance, not of pacifism since they only were requesting money from Jesus, but Jesus provided sufficient tribute for both himself and Peter! Jesus intended on keeping both the Levitical law as well as not offending Caesar as long as it didn’t conflict with God’s law. Acts 5: 28,29.

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      Tom in KY
      Comment on Mark 12:17 (January 29th, 2015 at 20:36)

      Mark 12:17

      Your comment that Christians do not support the military is offensive. I’m a Christian and an Iraq war veteran. Furthermore your simile comparing paying for the military and abortion clinics is fallacious. That is like comparing apples to footballs. While studying for my masters degree in theology I covered the topic of pacifism extensively. I can provide you with some sources on the subject. You may also want to read mark 12:17 concerning the thoughts of Jesus and paying taxes. Now I do not wish to chastise your comments but please consider the men and woman who are no longer with us, they gave their life for your freedoms, supporting war and supporting the military are two different things.

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        Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 10:27)

        Tom in KY – THANK you for your military service. As the daughter of a devout Christian who was also a WWII vet, I’m profoundly grateful to those who serve & save our country. God bless you in your Masters study.

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    Jim Cates
    Comment on Nonresistance vs. Pacifism (January 29th, 2015 at 18:46)

    Nonresistance vs. Pacifism

    Erik and I actually had an extended email dialogue about the distinction between “nonresistance” and “pacifism” before this post went up. What we discovered was that with enough research, the terms become fairly fuzzy. For me, “nonresistance” is a global attitude toward relationships. “Pacifism” relates more to an experience we have not had in this country since Vietnam. When conscription (or the draft) is active, then those who are nonresistant in their view are further required to state that they will not engage in war. With the more recent wars/police actions involving all volunteer troops, the need to assert conscientious objector status, or to claim a pacifist view, has not arisen. All that said, different denominations and sects, and different writers and theologians will disagree with all or part of this. I’m interested in further opinions about the distinction between nonresistance and pacifism!

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      Comment on Pacifism vs nonresistance (January 29th, 2015 at 21:49)

      Pacifism vs nonresistance

      If you go with dictionary definitions, the difference is fuzzy. However, among today’s conservative Anabaptists there is a nuance … that they have probably added.
      The difference is this: pacifists will actively work to get governments to end wars and other evils like abortion. In other words, they will involve themselves in political action, marches, or protests to get governments to practice peace. This may include protests such as standing at ground zero in Baghdad (some liberal Mennonites actually did so in the beginnings of the Iraq wars, i.e. human shields), or marching to the White House and Capital Hill to speak against participation in war.
      Nonresistants will not get involved in the political activism nor street protests. They dont feel that they should use political means to accomplish the values of the kingdom of God.
      Again I reiterate that these definitions are not going to be found in dictionaries or encyclopedias, but my years of being around the arguments has brought this distinction to help clarify the matter in my own mind anyways.
      Pacifists (using the above distinction) will claim that nonresistants are not actively “pursuing peace with all men.” Nonresistants counter that trying to influence civil governments is a mixture of two kingdoms (one of this world, the other not), and muddying the waters of the separation between church and state. The way to “pursue peace” is to work on an individual level of each person taking up the cross of self-denial … a change of heart, not a change of political law.
      Ghandi, for example, was not nonresistant (according to the above distinction), but a pacifist.
      Hope this helps understand the matter. Mike

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        Jim Cates
        Comment on Nonresistance - Definitions (January 29th, 2015 at 22:05)

        Nonresistance - Definitions

        That’s fascinating Mike. At the risk of jumping ahead to my next post, I also think the environment shapes what nonresistance can be. For example, as an adolescent in the Vietnam era, I observed that it was tougher to take a nonresistant stance in the face of the draft. If your number was up (literally), one had to make a political declaration, or accept the government mandate to be ready to kill. All these years without the demand to serve in a war seem to have allowed a more moderate view of nonresistance to percolate.

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          Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 22:17)

          I am sure that does affect things. It is a known fact from previous draft periods that things like getting speeding tickets, reckless driving, etc have been thrown at those who claim nonresistance. So those boys who today are ripping around during rumspringa might think twice if peeling tires around the neighborhood could mean being sent to the front lines.
          And, it makes sense. If they are not serious about their faith in one area, they likely are not in other matters. Many of those who dont seem to care too much about what they stand for would take a different attitude if they had to face the draft board next week or month, or even year.
          It’s been a long time and things have gotten foggy for many people.

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            Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 08:43)

            Though there is overlap I think that nonresistance is probably the best term to describe the overarching Amish belief in this matter. For one it seems to be the concept they themselves choose. A doctrinal book we recently examined here (1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life) has an entire section devoted to “Nonresistance”.

            It discusses the various implications of the multi-faceted concept, including with regards to church unity, lawsuits, and war.

            On the term “pacifist” I also think that there can be a difference between labeling someone first and foremost as a pacifist vs. describing someone’s views and actions as pacifist.

            I think the first usage potentially carries many more implications, due to its history and usage in political and activist settings, than the second usage which could be taken simply as a descriptive adjective used to address one component of a nonresistant belief system. To me in this post Jim is focusing in on that specific component.

            Maybe for purposes of discussion there should be a distinction between a large “P” Pacifist that encompasses these other implications and a small p pacifism that simply refers to one’s stance towards war and bearing of arms.
            Maybe there already is something like that. I’m sure others would know better.

            I’m glad Jim used the term here as it brings up a good topic of discussion.

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              Comment on Nonresistance as "policy vs. principle" (January 30th, 2015 at 08:49)

              Nonresistance as "policy vs. principle"

              For what it’s worth, here is an interesting set of questions from the book I mentioned above, 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life, from the “Nonresistance” section (p. 150):

              What is the fatal weakness in the modern peace movements? They teach nonresistance as a policy, not as a principle.

              Wherein is the difference? Nonresistance as a policy means peace if it can be had, because it is better than strife, but fight if you can not make the other fellow behave himself in any other way. Nonresistance as a principle means peace because God taught it, and because He forbids carnal strife. It means a trust in His power to make His word good.

              What is the objection to the former? It means that God’s word is ignored, and an advocacy of peace on the same grounds that heathens advocate it.

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    Comment on Amish and war (January 29th, 2015 at 19:15)

    Amish and war

    As a mother of a deployed sailor currently fighting the war on terrorism I would like to say that being a Christian,I fully support the military.The bible is full of encounters of wars and fighting, where God tells them to destroy evil enemies.I also respect the Amish for their decisions not to join,but let it be remembered our military are there to keep us all back home safe, Amish and the rest of us!

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      Tom in KY
      Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 29th, 2015 at 22:05)

      Tell your son I said thanks for his service, this Christian and veteran is grateful for his sacrifices.

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        Comment on amish and war (January 30th, 2015 at 09:02)

        amish and war

        Tom in KY, Thank you also for serving our great country!

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    Naomi Wilson
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 08:56)

    I believe it is almost impossible to describe biblical nonresistance in the secular terms that one finds doing research on the topic. To be a nonresistant Christian means actively participating in a spiritual battle that will not end this side of eternity. Secular scholars (for the most part) do not recognize that this battle exists. The book of Revelation tells us that violent persecution of Christians will return. “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.” Rev. 20:4

    Growing up as a pacifist, I lacked respect for members of the military, seeing them as people who had made poor career choices. If someone were to ask me today if I was a pacifist, I would say definitely no. Today as a born again Christian, I see soldiers as role models in their willingness to lay down their lives. We just have a different set of weapons and armor, and fight for a different kingdom.

    “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with the truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17

    The video that was posted on AA recently of Ohio Amish schoolchildren singing a hymn in for their local government officials was a wonderful testimony of a proper Christian attitude towards the government.

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    Naomi Wilson
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 30th, 2015 at 09:16)

    Thank you, Jim, for your work, and especially for being gracefully interested in further discussion. I don’t want to come across as arguing with what you wrote. I have been interested in the “what” of Amish life since I was a young child, and explaining the “what” is very important, since it is what the world sees and is interested in. But now that my perspective has changed, I believe that the “why” is *everything,* as far as any deeper discussion goes.

    And Erik, I’ve been wanting to thank you for a while for skillfully moderating a civil discussion, and for attracting a following of scholars, authors, current and former Amish, etc., whose discussion further builds up the quality of content on your site.

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      Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (January 31st, 2015 at 18:23)

      Thank you, Naomi. It’s really an honor to have so many interesting voices here, and one of my favorite things about my job 🙂

      On that note, look for one or two new contributors debuting here with posts next week.

      And thanks for all you’ve shared, including on this post. This has been an interesting topic.

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    Forest in North Carolina
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (February 1st, 2015 at 08:18)

    I have noticed that Jesus did not condemn the centurion who sought His help on behalf of his servant, but rather praised his faith above any He had seen in all Israel…

    Yet His instructions in Matthew 5:44…do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…(NKJV), are quite clear and preclude the taking of human life by a believer. I have friends and relatives who are veterans, and I thank God for their service as part of the State, which allows some of us to live and freely practice a non-resistant lifestyle.

    I believe, however, that as members of God’s earthly Kingdom, we are called to refrain from service as police, soldiers, or any occupation that puts us in the position of potentially having to harm another, or take their life. This is not a popular view today, particularly here in the South, where many cannot separate the State from God’s Kingdom. I have mixed feelings about it myself, but I have come to believe that it is what Jesus would have us do.

    Neither do I believe that there is any way that we can achieve peace except through leading individuals, one soul at a time, to Jesus. All the demonstrations and marches in the world will not change a man’s heart like knowing our Lord. I have also observed that many movements for “peace” that churches, including some that call themselves Mennonite, have become involved with, have involved them partnering with groups or individuals that hold views on issues like abortion or homosexuality, that run counter to Biblical standards. My believe is that Christians should not involve themselves in such activities.

    I do not expect many to agree with me, but this is how I see it, and I hope that we may continue to respectfully agree to disagree on topics like this.

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    Jim Cates
    Comment on Reply to Forest (February 1st, 2015 at 19:09)

    Reply to Forest


    I am probably moving away from the original discussion, but your comments resonate with a conversation I had several years ago with a friend who would doubtless describe himself as nonresistant. It was shortly after the execution of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombings, and we were discussing the thorny issue of executions in this country, in particular with someone like McVeigh, who was willing to destroy the lives of innocent children in a preschool. I can recall his tone and the sadness in his voice when he said “I could never sit on a jury and vote to put a person to death. But in cases like this, I am glad there are people who can.” For me it is indeed a struggle to determine our role in a democracy when it comes to justice, punishment, and a humble walk. Thanks for your comment. As with all the comments in response to this post, it spurs me to consider at a deeper level what my own commitment to peace and justice truly means.

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    Ed from NY
    Comment on Jim Cates: The Amish and War (February 2nd, 2015 at 14:11)

    It is my understanding that those who volunteered for “alternative service” during World War II often endured conditions every bit as grueling as the soldiers. For example, some volunteered for medical starvation experiments. Others fought forest fires. None received any pay or benefits. Most served far longer than most drafted soldiers as they were expected to stay in the camps. In addition to no pay, they, or their churches, were expected to pay for their own upkeep.

    Wherever one stands regarding war and pacifism, it is clear that the WWII era volunteers for alternative service were every bit as committed to serving their country and honoring their beliefs as were those who volunteered for military service.

    In contrast, it seems downright easy to avoid military service today: one simply does not join the military.

    Wikipedia Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Public_Service

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    Leon Moyer
    Comment on which country? (February 2nd, 2015 at 17:06)

    which country?

    To Ed and some of the other patriotic commenters above: As the Amish and conservative Menn. teach and believe, they are “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth. NONE of us had a choice in where we would be born, which usually determines our “country”, so the born again person can live in any nation but will not support that government when it contravenes Biblical teachings such as nonresistance. Under the teachings of Jesus, we are to pray that His kingdom will come, and when He answers that prayer, we enter spiritually into a different world, and while our bodies are yet here on earth, we are laying up treasures with God for eternity and to do so, can not become “entangled in the affairs of this life” here on earth. (2 Tim. 2:4 ” No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” So no believer has any desire to “fight” anyone else on the face of the earth, and therefore cannot be patriotic or supportive of any government of mankind. This is the “two kingdom” theology.
    1 Peter 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;”
    Warfare is definitely a “fleshly lust”! It is the desire to be safe, to do away with the enemy, whoever and whatever that may be. This is anathema to the believer, as we believe the body may be destroyed by man, but not the soul, therefor we live without fear of what our fellow man may do to us. To live without fighting or resisting is to gain eternal life, and since God is love, we must love and pray for even those who seek to do us harm. This is why a believer can not partake of military support in any nation. This is written without engaging in eternal judgment which is God’s, but yet we can and do judge the fruits of the tree.

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    Verity Pink
    Comment on Biblical consistency (February 16th, 2015 at 09:55)

    Biblical consistency

    One of my own difficulties has been with more liberal Christians who have argued that the portions of the Old Testament where people like Joshua and Gideon are seen as doing God’s will by waging war, are somehow less inspired than the Sermon on the Mount. I knew that I disagreed with this stance, but didn’t know what the answer was. The conclusion that I finally reached was that, in Old Testament times, the only way to deal with real evil, and in particular with those behaviours most associated with demonic influence, was to kill the person who was its vehicle. With the coming of Jesus, the Cross, and the empowerment of Pentecost, it became possible to operate differently. I think it’s really illuminating that Ephesians 6 follows straight after a passage on right relationships amongst the people of God – it’s as if Paul is saying “For goodness’ sake, stop shooting the messenger and deal with the real source of evil!”

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    Andy White
    Comment on Very well said Verity Pink... (February 16th, 2015 at 12:54)

    Very well said Verity Pink...

    I very much appreciated the way you thought this out. You illustrate the scriptural principle perfectly.

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    Verity Pink
    Comment on Response to Andy (February 17th, 2015 at 17:30)

    Response to Andy

    Thank you so much for your encouragement. Interestingly, God used my own comments to teach me something more – I was rereading my post after submitting it, and suddenly thought “But the issue isn’t really whether one is pacifist or not, but whether one is living under the New Covenant or the Old.” Which, of course, doesn’t mean I’m somehow better or more insightful than the Christians serving in the Forces mentioned in other posts, because God reserves the right to teach each of us His consistent truths in the order that He deems appropriate.

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