Christians and War: The Early Church Speaks (reblogged):

‘We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.’

– (Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4 – written about 160 AD)



‘To begin with the real ground of the military crown, I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. What sense is there in discussing the merely accidental, when that on which it rests is to be condemned? Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine, for a man to come under promise to another master after Christ, and to abjure father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself, to whom the gospel, too, holding them only of less account than Christ, has in like manner rendered honour? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he, forsooth, either keep watch-service for others more than for Christ, or shall he do it on the Lord’s day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself?…


‘…Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed’ (i.e. in believer’s baptism), ‘there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured’ (i.e. martyrdom) ‘which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept’.
– (Tertullian [c. 160-220 A.D.], ‘De Corona’ Chapter 11)


‘Chapter 19: Concerning Military Service’

‘In that last section, decision may seem to have been given likewise concerning military service, which is between dignity and power. But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters— God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier…’
– (Tertullian, On Idolatry [c. 200 A.D.])




‘From the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight. If therefore another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, brought in such a peace among the Gentiles which received it (the word), and convinced, through them, many a nation of its folly, then it appears that the prophets spoke of some other person. But if the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these’ (i.e. Christians throughout the world) ‘did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten,offer also the other cheek, then the prophets have not spoken these things of any other person, but of Him who effected them. This person is our Lord, and in Him is that declaration borne out’.

– Irenaus, Against Heresies IV.34 (c. A.D. 180)




‘In like manner, as the statement is false “that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion,” so also is this, “that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers;” for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defence of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors…’

– Origen, Contra Celsus Book III Chapter VII (c. A.D. 218).

‘For what wars should we not be fit, not eager, even with unequal forces, we who so willingly yield ourselves to the sword, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?’

– Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.), Apologeticum, 37.


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Prayer Walk for Peace

Edmonton Prayer Walk for Peace: On November 11 members of various churches will gather in front of City Hall at 7 PM and begin a candlelight walk from City Hall to the War Memorial with stops at the Gandhi statue and Canada Place. There will be short times of remembrance, reflection and prayer at each stop. You are invited to join others to remember and pray for peace. For more information, contact Scott Key at (780) 435-9960 or scott.key@kingsu.ca

This event is sponsored by Holyrood Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church Alberta.

Kim Fabricius explains: ‘Why I Am a Shalomite’

My readers (all six of them) may have noticed that I’m not feeling particularly motivated about blogging lately. However, I did appreciate Kim Fabricius’ fine sermon ‘Why I Am a Shalomite’. Here are a couple of excerpts:

I want to explain something to you this morning, something that is important, something that is very important. As far as I am concerned, because — as I hope to explain — as far as I can tell, it goes to the very heart of being a Christian, a follower of Jesus. All my sermons have titles. I thought of calling this one “Why I Am a Pacifist”. But the term is too loaded to be of any theological use. So the title is, instead, “Why I Am a Shalomite”. It’s a term I made up. “Shalom”, as you know, is the Hebrew word for peace, and includes the notions of human well-being and creation perfected — so it means — well, that’s exactly what I want to explain!

Of course a shalomite is, in fact, a certain kind of pacifist, but this certain kind is, crucially, a different kind of pacifist. Let’s looks at some other kinds…

And again:

To come to the point. As the American theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it – because he puts it so much better than I could: ‘Non-violence is not one among other behavioural implications that can be drawn from the gospel but is integral to the shape of Christian convictions.’ And further — and to the point of the point: ‘Nonviolence is not just one implication among others that can be drawn from our Christian beliefs; it is the very heart of our understanding of God.’ You see I am a Shalomite — and I believe that at least all Christians and, in principle, all people should be Shalomites — not because of anything I know about the world or human beings, or through a calculus of war and peace, ‘but because of something I know about Jesus’ (William Willimon) and because of something Jesus knows about God: namely, that God is a God of Shalom, that (to adapt what St. John says about God and light and darkness [I John 1:5]) God is non-violent and in him there is no violence at all. And what is Christian ethics, what is the very heart of following the way of Jesus, if not learning to be like the God of Jesus? And how do we learn to be like the God of Jesus if not by obeying the teaching of Jesus? And what is the teaching of Jesus if not ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48)?

Read the rest here.

By the way, Kim addresses the obvious objection – what do you do about all those Old Testament wars? – in the comments.

In recent years I have become a pacifist myself but haven’t felt confident enough in my own ability to argue the case to attempt any sort of sustained and reasoned defence of my position on this blog. Also, the best defence is probably the complete works of John Howard Yoder, and that bar is rather high! Still, I’m grateful for Kim’s short statement and am glad to endorse it here (not that he needs my endorsement!).

This Guy’s Not Bad Either!

Here’s Scottish guitar legend Tony McManus playing a tune that starts out as ‘What a Wonderful World’, then morphs into a highland tune before coming home to Satchmo at the end.

I first heard Tony at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival a few years ago. Next time I saw him was at the opening gig at the Blue Chair Café here in Edmonton. I had heard him play this tune at the Folk Festival, and since my wife is a big Louis Armstrong fan, I asked him during the break if he could play it for us during the second half. He ended up finishing the show with it, and it’s always been one of my favourites of his.