In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear T. A. and Dave, does the Bible teach pacifism? While people are lining up on both sides regarding the war with Iraq, I’m wondering if there is a clear teaching in the Bible about whether or not a Christian should go to war. What do you think?”
Dave: I’ll let you handle this one, Tom (chuckling).
Tom: Dave, I don’t find pacifism, especially the way we are seeing it demonstrated—and by the way, in many cases, violent demonstrations against the war…
Dave: For peace...
Tom: Just along that line, I think back about the war in India, when Pakistan was going to separate. Here, on the one hand, you have Muslims, which we are being told today is peaceful religion. On the other hand, you have Hindus, which have ahimsa, which is the law of nonviolence. That was one of the bloodiest spectacles you could imagine.
Dave: It certainly was. The Hindus were fleeing from what was becoming East and West Pakistan because the Muslims were killing them. The Muslims were fleeing from India, which had gained its independence from the British because the Hindus were killing them—all in the name of peace, of course—all nonviolent!
Tom: But it’s interesting, whatever side you take, some of those who call themselves Christians— and they may well be, they really know about the Lord—but they would appeal to the scriptures: “Turn the other cheek; we’re to love our enemies,” and say, “There it is—done deal!”
Dave: Well, if we go to Romans 13, Paul says that the authorities are ordained of God—now that doesn’t mean that God put Hitler into power, that God wanted Hitler to do what he did. It means that the authority that Hitler took upon himself is ordained of God. There should be those in charge over the human beings—otherwise it would be a jungle. And he says, “They do not bear the sword in vain. They are God’s ministers for righteousness.” Hitler failed in that, but the point that Romans 13 makes, and which common sense will tell you, we need police. I think we need police. I don’t know that anybody is demonstrating against police—maybe they demonstrate against what they call “police brutality.”
People talk about tolerance. Well, do you want the police to be tolerant of crime? Do you want the doctors to be tolerant of disease? So…
Tom: They are also called “peace officers,” which is really where you’re going with this.
Dave: Right. Very good. Okay, then maybe we need international police. You say, “Well, who made the United States the International Police?” Well, I look back on World War II—I had some little participation in that—I think if we had not gone to war, Hitler would have taken over the world, and think of the millions that would have been killed—more, I mean, the torture, the horror of the oppression and murder and imprisonment, and so forth, done by the Nazis just in the short time they had—what would it have been worldwide?
Now, we have at the present time someone called Saddam Hussein. I don’t know all the details of this man, but I know that he has murdered his own people. He’d just pull out a gun and shoot somebody, even his own relatives when they cross him! We know that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he has used them on his own people, and he is going to use them. So, I do not know the details of that, but I’ll have to leave that in the hands of those who do know.
But I know this, as you said, Tom, you cannot justify pacifism from the Bible. It doesn’t teach it. Jesus, for example, He said, “Any of you—if you don’t have a sword…,” He said, “I am leaving you. If you don’t have a sword, you had better go out and buy one. And they said, Well, Master, we’ve got two swords. He said, That’s enough.” But He didn’t want a sword used to defend Him. Peter tried to cut off the servant of the high priest’s head, and he cut off his ear—he wasn’t a very good swordsman. But what Jesus was saying…
Tom: Well, He didn’t tell them to go out and get many—I just want to underscore that point—you know, “Arm yourselves. This is going to be a battle from here on out.”
Dave: No, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight. But they don’t fight because my kingdom is not of this world.” So, we do not fight to advance the kingdom of God, but the Muslims have slaughtered millions to advance Allah’s kingdom. Okay, that’s a big difference.
On the other hand Jesus is saying, Look, there are brigands, and there are savage people out there! There are people who will kill you or steal from you if you don’t have some means of protecting yourself.
I’m sitting in my living room. My wife walks up the front walk, and she is carrying groceries. She is jumped on by about three or four guys. They beat her and rape her and rob her, and I just sit there. And you say, “Why didn’t you do something?” I said, “Well, I’m against violence. I’d have to be violent, wouldn’t I, to stop this? I would have to use force. I don’t believe in force.”
“Well, couldn’t you call 911?”
“Yeah, but they might use force, too. I just believe in peace!”
It’s not rational—it doesn’t make sense. So, yeah, we can say, “peace, peace,” and the Bible has something to say about those who cry, “peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Without a strong police force, this world would be even worse, and without those who are willing to stand up internationally, it would be horrible beyond belief.
So, pacifism—I do not like war, I do not like violence, I wish that it were not the case—but the world in which we live, there are violent people, there are violent nations, there are criminals, international criminals. There are those who just wouldn’t even think before they kill you. Drug runners and so forth in Columbia, look what they are doing. I believe we do need some weapons. We do need to stand up for righteousness, and this is what rulers are supposed to do.
Tom: Dave, when the Bible says, “Love your enemies,” to me it’s not saying you let them have their way with you. Just as you mentioned with the example you gave of somebody beating up Ruth and taking certain things, but we do love them in the sense that—sometimes love is tough, and you’ve got to hold them back, you’ve got to keep, you know, your people out of harm’s way. And the love aspect is to treat them in a way that is respectful of what God wants.
Dave: We love them by telling them the gospel and trying to correct them and help them. Jesus said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” And it’s very important, with a child growing up, you just don’t let them run the world—do anything they want. And there are people out there who want to run the world, and they want to do anything they want. They will trample on anyone’s rights, and I don’t believe that the Bible says that that should be allowed. So, we will have to use the means that we can to prevent it.