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According to basic Christian philosophy, one should take a pacifistic approach towards warfare

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/2/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,565 times Debate No: 16264
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (11)
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I would like to open this debate to prove pacifism to Christians.
When I say "basic Christian philosophy, I mean concepts that all Christian religions agree on, such as the factuality of the sayings of Jesus, and the teachings of the bible*. Specific teachings of denomination, such as "infallible" teachings of the Pope, and Mormon doctrine, however, are not to be assumed true.
When one is to imagine the idea of pacifism, it should be thought of as an opposition to all forms of killing, but not necessarily all forms of violence.

*One must remember that while many churches have separate interpretations of the same writings or information, these can still be legitimately refrenced.

I would like to start this debate by thanking my opponent for accepting this challenge and wishing him good luck.


First of all, I would like to thank m0dernv0ltaire for initiating this debate. May he with the best arguments win.

My strategy in this debate will be simple: I will show that from a Christian perspective, war is somtimes justified. This consitutes a refutation of pacifism in that it falsifies the idea that all wars are unjust or that Christians should always refrain from involvement in war. My opening argument will be short to leave room for other issues that might come up.


A Christian Perspective on War

I. Biblical Justification

At first glance, one might argue that Jesus' teaching regarding "turning the other cheek" and "loving our neighbors as ourselves" (Matt 5:39; 22:39) obligates a Christian to a life of nonaggression. This, however, is mistaken. First, these teachings only apply to the level of the individiual, not the state. Indeed, in Romans 13:1-4, government is specifically entrusted with the responsibility to "bear the sword" and to provide for civil defense. A just government may therefore wage a just war. Second, the aforementioned teachings were intended as heuristrics, not absolutes. Thus, in the presence of a sufficient reason, Christians may legitimately engage in actions of self-defense. As Luke 22:36 indicates, Jesus himself actually commanded his followers to carry a sword for the purposes of self-defense.

II. Bibilical Warfare

The Old Testament is filled with examples of warfare, many of which are endorsed explicitly by God. Indeed, God even acts as a commander, directing the Israelites as to what battle strategies to take and which targets to attack. In Joshua 10:12-27, he even held the sun in place so that Israel could continue to do battle. God himself commissions Judges who are commanded to wage war, and Gideon and Daniel were two examples of model biblical soldiers of whom God approved of. God is depicted as "a warrior who gives victory." (Zeph. 3:17)

To argue that the Old Testament conception of God is not applicable in New Testament times is to show a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible. Although a new covenant is revealed, God remains the same -- indeed, he still retains his warlike characteristics, which is manifested in the book of Revelation. He retains his warlike characteristics.

The fact that warfare can and has been carried out both with divine approval and divine involvement strongly lend to the notion that Christians may participate in war.

III. Christian Tradition

Although tradition is not fullproof, it does offer an insight as to what the early Christians thought about warfare. As we see in the early church fathers, there is a consensus toward the idea that Christians may justly participate in war. The church fathers Eusubius, Basil, Ambrose, and Origen all held to variants of the idea that Christians may participate in just wars. The burden of proof is therefore on my opponet to show that the Bible opposes Christian involvement in warfare.

IV. Jus ad Bellum

Jus as Bellum (literally: justice toward war), refers to the set of criteria that are used in determining whether a certain war is just. The Christian tradition has, for the large part, settled on the following criteria as indicative of what makes a war just:

1. It must be carried about by a proper authority
2. It must have a just cause
3. It must have right intentions
4. War must be the only reasonable way to the right the wrong
5. There is a reasonable hope of success

According to these criteria, a just war may only be carried out by a legitimate government with the proper intentions and goal in mind. Before going to war, all other alternatives ought to be tried and exhausted, and there must be a reasonable probability of winning the conflict.

V. Jus in Bello

Jus in Bello (literally: justice in war) refers to the set of criteria that are used in determining whether certain actions in a given war are just. The Christian tradition has, for the large part, settled on the following criteria as indicative of what constitutes permissible action within a just war:

1. No intrinsically evil acts may be done
2. Noncombatants and civilians must be given immunity
3. Military action must be proportionate

Acts performed within a just war are considered permissible only if they do not do evil for evil's sake (For example, targeting non-military targets would be considered wrong). Civilians and other non-military targets must be avoided, for they are not willing participants in a conflict. Finally, the action conducted against a country must be proportionate to the evil they have committed. We may not nuke a nation's capital simply because they bombed a village.


I have argued primarily through the use of Biblical sources that it is at times permissible for Christians to engage in warfare. This is provided that the conflict in question is just, in which case it must satisfy the criteria for jus ad bellum and jus in bello. I have also given several cursory responses to pacifist arguments which may come up, and I now turn the debate over to my opponent.



1. Darrell Cole, When God Says War is Right (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Waterbrook. 2002)
2. Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Zondervan 2010)
Debate Round No. 1


1.Biblical Justification

While Con is correct when he points out Jesus' teachings against individual aggression, the passages he uses to express his opinion need only a small amount of deeper inspection for one to realize they do not actually oppose pacifism.

Firstly, Con states that Rome was given the "right to bear the sword" in 13:1-4, and therefore Rome has the right to use warfare to provide civil defense. This, however, is an inherent misinterpretation of the passage states:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

When one looks at the last two sentences, one sees that the passege speaks about a government punishing criminals, not, as Con supposed, about civil defense.

Secondly, Con states that in Luke 22:36, Jesus tells the apostles to carry a sword. However, these were not for self-defense, as he conscientiously stated two swords were enough. Two swords were certainly not enough to keep him from being arrested.
The actual reason, which Jesus did, this was to fulfill the prophecy that he would be put in the ranks of criminals: two swords were enough to justify him being he of a band of brigands (Luke 22:37)

2.Biblical Warfare

Con's second base argument is that because God seems to endorse Jewish wars in the Old Testament, it is acceptable. However, while it is correct that God remains the same, as do ethics, God never actually supported war.
While God accepted the necessity of war to continue the chosen race, this did not make it ethical, which he knew. Therefore, when David, a king, wished to build a temple for God, it was not allowed. Although David had only fought for Jerusalem in the name of God, God said, "You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight." (1 Chronicles 22:8)
God accepted that the Jews had to fight wars to survive, and because they were the chosen people he allowed it. However, this did not take away from the sins they committed through killing.

3.Christian Tradition

Con states that the view of many early Christians that war was acceptable supports said notion. However, not all of the took this view, in fact, Aristedies, Hippolytus, Arnobius, Cyprian, and Tatian spoke against war. Regardless, an Ethos argument cannot be used to prove such an important moral question.

4. Jus ad Bellum/ 5. Jus in Bello (Just War Theory)

While Just War Theory is a highly accepted theory in Catholic teachings, it is not universally recognized as factual. Therefore, Con must prove it rather than simply explaining it. I cannot argue against it if Con does not say why this line of thinking is correct.

6. Pure Ethics

While I have already explain why biblical passages which supposedly propose war are misinterpretations, I would like to state the reason why I originally decided to contemplate the legitimacy of pacifism. I would like to ask all readers to think to them about the idea I will share, and I hope they can decide for themselves whether it makes sense. Being that both con and I are Christians, I will speak as if I was talking to him.

Both of us, as Christians are aware that when we die, we will go to Heaven or Hell (Purgatory being only a path to Heaven). Martyrs knew this, which is why they chose to die for their own faiths. For a person to die is actually a good thing if they are going to Heaven, murder is only an evil because there is a possibility that you are Damning a human to Hell and eternal punishment. Using this line of thinking, you must pose the question to yourself, "If a sociopath were chasing you, wielding an axe, would it be right to shoot him?" I find the answer to be "No." by shooting this man, you almost certainly condemn him to Hell, but if you were to allow him to close in, you allow for him to change his mind, and let you live. Being that eternal life is so much more valuable to Christians than life of this world, is it not more important to almost certainly sacrifice your less valuable life for the salvation of a man?

This is not an absolute argument, just a question I wished to ask all of the readers. It would be very helpful to me if they would respond in the comments.

7. Biblical Passages

I would like to close off my argument by wishing my opponent good luck and quoting a few bible passages which seems to clearly support pacifism.
"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…."
1 Peter 3:9
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[d] says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."[e]
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.'
Romans 12:17-21
"Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
Matthew 5:44

Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel; By: Alexandre Christoyannopoulos


The Biblical Data on War: OT and NT

In his rebuttal, Pro charges me with misinterpreting Romans 13:1-4, arguing that it does not sanction civil defense, but the punishment of criminals. Pro bases this on the last two sentences, which read:

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Both God's appointment of the government to "bear the sword" and "punish the wrongdoer" is unqualified. That is, there are no specified limits on who the government may exercise its authority. Why think then that the application of this verse is limited only to the punishment of internal offenders? "Wrongdoer" applies not just to the murderer in one's society, but also to the foreign country that is carrying out systematic genocide. It would be ludicrous to suggest that this passage applies only to wrongdoers inside a country, but not wrongdoers outside a country. Indeed, this interpretation is stretched and contrived, as "wrongdoer" is unqualified. Theologian Wayne Grudem writes,

"Now, if a government is commanded by God to protect its citizens from the robber of thief who comes from within a country, then certainly it also has an obligation to protect its citizens from thousands of murderers or thieves who come as an army from somewhere outside of the nation. Therefore a nation has a moral obligation to defend itself against foreign attacks who would come to kill and conquer and subjugate the people in a nation." [1]

We see this many times in the Old Testament, where God himself commands his people to go to war. Yet, if war is both evil and forbidden by God, then it would be contrary to his nature to command what is evil, and contradictory to command what is forbidden. But Pro has a response to this, he argues that in 1 Chronicles 22:8, David was forbidden from building a temple because of the blood he had shed in wars. This is taken to be a condemnation of war.

Unfortunately, this interpretation is read into the text. David is forbidden to built the temple of God not because there is something intrinisically wrong about war, but because David was a man of war, whereas a temple is supposed to be a house of peace. Therefore, David is was not qualified to build the temple because it did not fit his job description -- not because he had engaged in immorality. [2] To read this passage as a condemnation of war is to ignore the biblical data in which God endorsed war, blessed those who participated in it, and in which he himself even participated. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:8 suggests that there is a time for war, and a time for peace. Pro writes,

"God accepted that the Jews had to fight wars to survive, and because they were the chosen people he allowed it. However, this did not take away from the sins they committed through killing."

The Israelites commited no sins in warfare. The biblical understanding of the word "murder" in the Ten Commandments refers to the unlawlful killing of another human killing. "It is never used to refer to killing in war (other Hebrew words are used for this)... The command is not speaking about killing in war, and the original Hebrew readers would not have understood it to apply to soldiers who kill in combat." [3] Indeed, it's bizzare to think that God, being all good, would have commanded the Israelites to deliberately commit evil for evil's sake. This interpretation once again does not square with the biblical data.

Pro argues that God accepted the necessity of war to continue his people, and that this didn't make it ethical. But this interpretation too is strained. In the OT laws regarding divorce (An institution that God tolerated but still viewed as unethical), guidelines were laid down on when it was permissible to divorce one's spouse. But notice that God never actively commanded someone to divorce his spouse. Indeed, all of the laws regarding it were passive in nature.

When it comes to the institution of war, God is seen actively commanding individuals to go to war (Deut. 20:1, for example). Had war been an institution that God merely tolerated, he would have only issued passive laws regarding it, for he would not have commanded that his people deliberately engage in evil.

Going back now to Luke 22:36, there are dual purposes for this verse. This is not only meant as a fulfillment of a prophecy, but also an endorsement of self-defense. Jesus was also encouraging his disciples to carry a sword for self-defense ("buy one)". At that time, it was commonplace for one to carry swords as a means of defense against robbers and thieves. Moreover, the verse indicates that at least two of Jesus' disiples had been carrying swords for the three years they had been with him, yet Jesus did not forbid it. In fact, he encourages it.

Christian Tradition

Pro argues that the mere fact that Christian tradition was oriented toward just war theory does not prove my thesis. Indeed, I never meant it as such. I explicitly stated that this indicates that the burden of proof is against him, since he is advocating an idea which has had little precedent in church tradition. Pro also cites several early church fathers which advocated pacifism. However, these church fathers did not advocate pacifism per se; "instead, they objected to military service mainly because of the role of pagan religious practices in the military. Even with such objections, a diversegence in Christian opinion existed, and Christian involvement in and support for military service grew steadily from the second century." [4]

Now, I mentioned the crtieria for Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello, only to provide an indication of what a just war would look like. As such, they were not meant as arguments in and of themselves, but as a description of what warfare from a just war perspective would look like. Hence, I will not elaborate on this due both to space concerns and its secondary role in the debate.

Pro's "Pure Ethics" Argument

As a counter-analogy to Pro's "pure ethics" argument, suppose that you are walking home one day when you pass a dark alley. You notice some screams coming from inside and walk to investigate. You then come across a gang rape in progress. You are armed with a handgun with enough rounds to shoot every member of the gang, who are also armed. Should you shoot? Or should you let them continue raping the innocent victim because you could possibly damn them to hell if you killed them? Clearly in such a scenario, you have a moral duty to use lethal force to prevent a great injustice from happening. Refraining from action would itself be immoral.

Or consider the case of Nazi Germany during WWII. Would it have been better to simply let the Nazis live so they could possibly convert and risk their taking over the world, or would it have been justified to make war against them for the purpose of safeguarding liberty?

Pro's own analogy fails because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sending someone to hell, for their own condemnation was brought upon by themselves, and not you. Someone may, out of their own graciousness, choose to sacrifice their own life -- but this is neither a requirement or a command.

Biblical Passages

Due to the number of passages presented and because of space considerations, I cannot respond to them here. I will cover them in more detail in my next response. But as a preliminary response, notice that all of these verses have to do with personal revenge and vigilantee justice. While on the level of the individual this may sometimes be prohibited, government is specifically entrusted with these duties, such that the Christian may engage in them.


1. Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, pg.388
2. Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen, and H. Wayne House (eds), Nelson's Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson), p.268
3. Grudem, PATTB, pg.389
4. Darrell Cole, When God Says War is Right, pg.8
Debate Round No. 2


Biblical Justification

Con counters my point on criminal punishment by stating that God does not qualify upon whom authority may be exercised, and that a state is therefore allowed to, for example, punish a government "that is carrying out systematic genocide". However, Con is incorrectly under the impression that God grants authority to governments to be used against wrongdoers in general, rather than against the people under said authority.
God specifically states, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities..." This means that one must follow the authorities which one is subscribed under, it cannot mean that I am subject to the laws of all nations, and that in breaking a law of Italy they would be correct in punishing me. It was not America's duty, nor was it our right to invade Iraq seeking out Saddam Hussein. Not because he was not a "wrongdoer", but because America was not his own governing authority.

Biblical Warfare

Con's argument concerning David not being allowed to build a temple relies on the incorrect notion that a temple is intrinsically a "house of peace". This cannot be true, as the only way through which a temple could be an excursively peaceful place is if Judaism were an exclusively peaceful religion, which is what Con is attempting to disprove. Furthermore, research into the Jewish faith shows that a temple is for community prayer, study, and worship*. While all of these involve tranquility, they do not require peace insofar as a lack of violence. If the reason David were excluded from building a Temple was that he were unqualified to lead a community into prayer, than many Christian men, including Pope Urban II, who initiated the crusades, would have been disallowed from running services by God. However, David was only disallowed because he was unworthy to build a temple.

Con continues to claim the Christ advocated self-defense based on the fact that he asked his apostles to carry two swords. However, this simply cannot be true. Christ specifically says that two swords is enough. This would not have been enough for defense from arrest, but enough to be seen as bandits. He also rebukes Peter when Peter attempted to fight the Jews,
"'Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.'" Mathew25:52
"But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And he touched the man's ear and healed him." Luke 25:51
"Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away!'" John 18:11
The only reason for Jesus wishing to incriminate for no purpose would have been to fulfill the prophecy that he would be put into the rank of criminals*.

Christian Tradition

Both Con and I seem to accept the fact that past Christian have accepted war by far most often, however, the idea that pacifism is so rare in Christianity that I bear the burden of proof is not accurate. The Community of Christ, the Churches of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Christadelphians all practice pacifism. In fact, Jehovah's witnesses alone have far more adherents that Judaism itself*.

Jus Ad Bellum and Jus In Bello

We are both in agreement that this not an argument bt rather an explanation tool

Due to time constriants I cannot contrast your contradiction to my "pure ethics" argument I will address this in the next round.



The Biblical Justification for Warfare

When Paul said that everyone ought to be subject to the governing authorities, he was indeed saying that one should obey the government of the doman in which one resides. The idea that therefore this implied that one must be subject to the laws of all nations was not the thrust of my argument, and hence Pro attacks a strawman. Rather, the point to be inferred here is that civil government is the only legitimate authority under which justice must be dispensed. Therefore, civil governments may justly undertake campaigns both to correct and resist wrongdoing. Since justice is dispensed on both the level of civil society and civil government, governments may legitimately engage in warfare. Pro has thus not responded to my previous argument. Recall earlier the observations from Wayne Grudem:

"Now, if a government is commanded by God to protect its citizens from the robber of thief who comes from within a country, then certainly it also has an obligation to protect its citizens from thousands of murderers or thieves who come as an army from somewhere outside of the nation. Therefore a nation has a moral obligation to defend itself against foreign attacks who would come to kill and conquer and subjugate the people in a nation." [1]

Nowhere did I argue that this passage implies that we are subject to the laws of other countries. Rather, my argument is that we ought to obey our own governments because they have been entrusted by God with the task of dispensing justice, whether this be internal or external to society.

Indeed, the idea that justice can only be dispensed within society by the government of that domain strikes one asprima facie ludicrous, both on moral and Biblical grounds. Can one seriously say with a straight face that American involvement in preventing the spread of Nazi tyrrany during WWII was immoral? Moreover, why did God himself bothcommand and endorse warfare in the Old Testament? And why did he bless those who participated? Pro has not provided adequate responses to these questions. This, of course, brings me to the second point.

Biblical Warfare

Pro argues that my supposition that "a temple is intrinisically a 'house of peace'" is incorrect, for it conflicts with the purpose of my argument. Not so, for Pro is confusing my treatment of role of the priest and the role of the state. God's ultimate desire for mankind is for them to return to communion with their maker. In the Old Testament, this was primarily carried out through priests in the temple and tabernacle. War, because it results in death and destruction, alienates mankind from God. A temple, therefore, must be a house of peace.

This is not to say that war is immoral or a bad thing. Rather, it illustrates the difference between the church and the state. The former is concerned more with bringing people to God, while the latter is concerned with dispensing earthly justice. This idea is expressed clearly in the New Testament, in which Jesus in Mark 12 tells us to "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to render to God what is God's." There as thus two institutions: church and state, each with their own domain. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes they don't.

With this in mind, it becomes clear why David was not allowed to build a temple. Whereas a temple was supposed to be a house of peace run by priests, David's profession was that of a warrior whose hands directly killed many. This is also why Pro's comparison to the Crusades is inadequate, for in David's example he had directly shed the blood of man. As I said earlier, David is forbidden to built the temple of God not because there is something intrinisically wrong about war, but because David was a man of war, whereas a temple is supposed to be a house of peace. Therefore, David is was not qualified to build the temple because it did not fit his job description -- not because he had engaged in immorality. Pro's responses have not adequately circumvented this argument.

Moving now to Christ's mention that "two swords is enough," this was not intended as a commandment for one person to carry two swords, but as a response to two disciples who showed him their swords. Pro completely misses the context here, which I reproduce:

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

"That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:36-38)

Wayne Grudem elaborates on the meaning of this passage:

"People commonly carried swords at that time for protection against robbers, and apparently at least two of Jesus' disciples, who had been with him for three years, were still carrying swords, and Jesus had not forbidden this... The fact that Jesus was going to be crucified meant an increasing danger of people attacking the disicples as well. When Jesus says, 'It is enough,' it is immediately in response to the disciples showing him 'two swords,' so 'enough' is best understood to mean 'enough swords.'" [2] There is, of course, an element of prophecy to this passage. But this does not preclude there from being both a dual theological and practical lesson to be gleaned here, as is evident throughout the Bible.

But what about Peter's rebuke? Does it constitute a prohibition on force?

1) Suppose we grant the pacifist's argument that Jesus condemned Peter for using force. The prohibition, however, would only apply to the level of the individual, and not to state governments. Jesus can thus be seen as prohibitingvigilantee justice.

2) As Grudem notes, "this was because [Jesus] did not want his disciples to attempt to stop his crucifixion or to try to start a military uprising against Rome... in the very same verse, Jesus did not tell Peter to throw away his sword, but to keep it, for he said, 'Put your sword back into its place.'" [3]

3) The meaning of "All who draw the sword will die by the sword," understood in proper context refers to the fact that all who use swords as a means of advancing the kingdom of God will not succeed. This is not understood as a wholesale condemnation on force.

Christian Tradition

As I have argued earlier, it has been the historic position of the Christian church that warfare is sometimes justified. Pro, therefore, owes us an explanation if he wishes to disagree with this -- he thus bears the burden of proof. This is not mitigated by the fact that some (A very small minority) Christian groups have held to pacifistic views of warfare. Indeed, most of the groups he mentions are considered by many scholars to be cults that are not representative of orthodox or mainstream Christianity. [4]

Verses Supporting Pacifism?

Since I now have some room, I'll respond to some of the verses that Pro previously listed.

Verses which speak of not repaying evil with evil only work as a prohibition on warfare if we assume that war is evil. But that's what we're debating over! If war is indeed at times justified, then this entire argument falls apart, for Pro is arguing in a circle, for those verses only work if we asume in advance that war is evil. Pro is therefore assuming his conclusions.

The idea of "praying for those who persecute you" and "overcoming evil with good," moreover, are perfectly compatible with warfare. For if the just war theorist is right, then war would in some cases be a good thing. Moreover, why not think that God answers prayer by means of a just war? Pro's arguments are flagrantly question-begging, for they all assume in advance that war is either evil or is not a live option. But this is just circular reasoning.

I eagerly await Pro's response to my criticism of his "Pure Ethics" argument in the next round.


1. Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, pg.388
2. Ibid, 203
3. Ibid, 195
4. See Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults

Debate Round No. 3


I apologize to my opponent and the voters for failing to complete my argument last round, in order to keep the same formant, my "pure ethics" response will conclude my fourth round argument.

Biblical Justification
"Rather, the point to be inferred here is that civil government is the only legitimate authority under which justice must be dispensed. Therefore, civil governments may justly undertake campaigns both to correct and resist wrongdoing." Con states that Paul's writings support the use of government force to correct crimes and evil. This is correct, I am not an anarchist nor have I ever mentioned the idea that the government not be allowed to enforce laws. What I am arguing is that the use of mortal violence is an unacceptable extreme.

Con also uses the works of Wayne Grudem to argue that the obligation of a country to enforce law is an equal obligation to engage in war for national security. Grudem's main correlation, however, between these to circumstances is in naming the criminal a "robber or thief" and the invaders "murderers or thieves." There are, however, a number of differences. Most notably, enforcing law normally does not require lethal force, and therefore does not cause any important damage from a religious viewpoint. Fighting in a war, however, guarantees death, and causes moral damage which can not be justified from a Christian viewpoint.

Con once again questions why God would command warfare and bless its participants if it were evil. As I explained before, God found Jewish war to be an acceptable evil in the interest of continuing the survival of the chosen race, he blessed people for following his commands, not simply for the act of killing people. Furthermore, because the Messiah had not yet come, the gates of Heaven would be closed until his arrival. The Jews were condemned to Hell until then, so their sins did not matter.

Con also includes a ridiculous challenge asking if I can "seriously say with a straight face that American involvement in preventing the spread of Nazi tyranny during WWII was immoral?"

Yes I can.
Con's lack of respect for an entirely reasonable ideology shows an utter lack of open-mindedness.

Biblical Warfare
Con claims that warfare is an entirely acceptable practice, yet also says , "War, because it results in death and destruction, alienates mankind from God." How can anything be worse from a Christian perspective than alienation from God? Therefore, the only justification for war is if being conquered by one's enemy is worse that being alienated from God and possibly sent to Hell. Even the worst possible occurrence from being conquered is death. Death, however, is not nearly as bad as alienation from God, as death is not worse than even the slightest chance of condemnation.

Con also cites the difference from church and state as an excuse for a country engaging in warfare. However, to Christians, the perfect world would have governments which followed Christian virtues. The reason for a separation between church and state is not to give governments to right to act immorally. Rather, it is a wise knowledge that there is no certain religion, and to impose any religion's values on any non member would be a great injustice. If any true religion were to surface, all countries would be expected to adhere to such a religion.

Con mentions that Christ explicitly stated two swords were enough. Let me reiterate, two swords were not enough if Christ's purpose were self-defense, but were enough if it were to be arrested as a bandit. To interpret this as both a prophecy fulfillment and a recommendation for self-defense is ludicrous, as Christ often advocated submissiveness, especially in personal altercations.

Con also suggests that Christ's rebuke of Peter was an attack of vigilante justice. This cannot be true, however, as Peter was not engaging in vigilantism. Peter's actions were as just an action of violence can be: his friend was unjustly arrested and would soon be killed, so he attempted to free his friend.
Grudem also claims that Jesus wanted to avoid a military uprising against Rome, this could not be, however, as he did not even have enough supporters to attempt to free him from crucifixion How could Jesus expect anyone to attempt to overthrow ROME?

Christian tradition
While a small portion of Christians are pacifist, this is considering what an enormously popular religion Christianity is, being that around twice as many pacifist Christian exist that Jews, one cannot automatically lay the burden of proof on me.

Pure Ethics
Con once again presents situations he expects to shock me into defeat. While I would feel an obligation to protect the raped, it would be immoral to murder the rapists. I would get help, or shoot at the gangsters in the legs to distract them and save the raped, but I would not feel it necessary to kill the rapists. While it would be their own doing when they (presumably) went to Hell, it is the duty of all Christians to spread the word and aid the conversion of others. I believe Con's main difficulty in understanding this is his misunderstanding of the differences of the words just and moral. Justice, which he mentions frequently, has the objective of keeping all things equal and fair to those who work towards said goal. Justice is the reason for jailing criminals, they lose their right to justice when they commit crimes. Con often puts out situations where the just thing to do would be murder, however, this is not the way morality and Christianity works. Christianity values charity. One must recognize that a sinner is far more unfortunate than a person who is in great suffering, for a sinner will suffer for eternity. Therefor, it is more charitable to keep the interests of an evil doer in mind. Morality necessitates that even if someone steals from you, you may take back your money, but not more. If one is to kill a murderer chasing one down, one is sending him to hell, a far greater offense than to have been killed in the act of allowing the murderer to be converted before his death.

Verses supporting pacifism
While I admit most of these verses apply to personal conflict, any one person should exercise the same morals whether or not they are a part of a small or large conflict.

I request that Con lay his last new arguments in the following round considering that I cannot respond to any round five arguments, and that I did not argue in the 1st round, while Con did.


Pro has appeared to have dropped many of his initial arguments in his latest response. As will become evident, he also neglects to respond to many of the points I have brought up. Before I get into the brunt of my response, let me address a misunderstanding that is evident throughout Pro's argument.

Murder vs. Killing?

Pro operates under the assumption that "Murder" and "Killing" and synonymous, and that therefore both are evil. Even a cursory examinination of the Biblical text reveals this to be incorrect. "Killing" simply refers to the act of taking a life and is not inherently immoral, otherwise God would have been acting immorally in commanding the Israelites to undertake various military campaigns against neighbors. "Murder," by contrast, refers to the unjust taking of a life and is hence intrinsically immoral. The Ten Commandments carry a prohibition on murder -- not killing.

Indeed, this distinction allows us to understand how God could have justly commanded wars in the Old Testament. However, Pro argues that Jewish war was "an acceptable evil in the interest of continuing the survival of the chosen race" and that God "blessed people for following his commands, not simply for the act of killing people." He then argues that since the Jews were condemned to hell anyway, their sins did not matter.

The idea that for the Israelites, war was an "acceptable evil" is problematic. Assuming that war was evil, why would God have commanded his people to engage in immoral acts? Moreover, why did God himself participate in war if it was immoral? Why did he bless those who did evil acts? Since he is a Christian, Pro's argument runs the risk of blasphemy, for it is suggesting that God sinned. This is in direct contradiction to scripture, which emphasizes God's moral perfection (James 1:16-17). Moreover, the idea that the "Jews were condemned to Hell until then" and that therefore "their sisns did not matter." Is absurd. The Bible mentions a plethora of Old Testament figures who were saved prior to the advent of the Messiah -- people like Abraham (Who was, as Hebrews states "justified by faith") and Elijah.

Biblical Justification of War

Responding to the charge that civil government is entrusted with the ability to punish evildoers, Pro agrees, but argues that this precludes the use of "mortal violence." But even a cursory reading of Romans 13:1-7 shows this to be flatly incorrect. Government is entrusted with the task of "wielding the sword," meaning that it may therefore use death as an acceptable punishment for wrongdoers. Romans 13:4-5 indicates:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer

Pro argues that fighting in a war guarantees one's death and therefore cannot be justified according to Christian principles. But so what? If the state exercises its biblically granted power of the sword within its own borders, that too guarantees death for he person receiving said punishment. What then, is the difference between war and administering justice within a state's own borders? There is none. If the latter is justified (As Romans clearly indicates), then the latter is justified as well. If the state is justified in wielding the sword, it may justly participate in war. Aside from location, there is no difference between wielding the sword internally and externally. But mere location does not seem to make a relevant difference here. So the differences here are largely irrelevant.

Pro is correct that in a perfect world, there would be no war. But Biblical ethics are not about an unattainble ideal -- they are structured with concern to the fallen world. In such a world, God has legitimatelly allowed the use of violence as a moral means of dealing with evildoers. Ideals are therefore irrelevant to the discussiona at hand, since I might as well argue that we should evangelize since in an ideal world, everyone would be saved.

Christ's statement that "two swords were enough" was addressed to two disciples, and therefore the claim that they were "not enough" ignores the context of this verse. Moreover, Pro gives no reason to think that there are dual meanings to this verse. He simply dismisses this, when we observe throughout the Bible that Jesus' teachings often have dual meanings.

Christ's rebuke of Peter, moreover, was meant as a condemnation of vigilantism. This is because Peter was taking the law into his own hands, attempting to enforce it without the proper authority. Moreover, notice that Jesus did not condemn legitimate self-defense, as he told peter to simply put his sword away, and not to throw it out. Jesus did not want his disciples to conflict with God's plan by stopping his crucifixion or inciting an uprising against Rome. Obviously, they didn't have enough people to do that, but that does not mitigate the point here in any way.

Of Nazis and Pure Ethics

In response to my argument that opposition to involvement in World War II is absurd, Pro writes,

"Yes I can."
"Con's lack of respect for an entirely reasonable ideology shows an utter lack of open-mindedness."

Lack of respect? This is a question that has been deeply and seriously wrestled with by many pacifistic thinkers, and Pro's flippant dismissal of my argument shows his own lack of respect for the issues. It seems as if Pro is more concerned with following a rigid framework of laws without caring about its results. A proper biblical ethic commands equal devotion to both law, virtue, and circumstance. As it has been said, law was made for man, not man for the law. Concerning the Hitler question, philosopher Robert Brimlow writes,

"How should Christians respond to the kind of evil Hitler represents if just war theory is precluded? We must live faithfully; we must be humble in ou faith and truthful what we say and do... This may also mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we also shal die. That's it. There is nothing else -- or rather, anything else is a footnote to this... I desperately want to avoid this conclusion" [1]

I submit that if pacifism leads to wildly absurd and counterintuitive conclusions such as these, why not just reject it in light of all the reasons we have seen for embracing an attitude of justifiable warfare for the Christian?

Pro's response to my criticism of his pure ethics argument is wholly unconvincing. Recall that in the example I offered, each one of the gansters were armed. Shooting them in the legs would therefore not be an option. Moreover, what exactly would be "immoral" about killing the rapists? To argue that it would be immoral because one would be preventing their salvation is unconvincing, because from a biblical point of view salvation is a gift that nobody deserves. There is nothing intrinisically wrong with depriving someone of an undeserved gift because of their own wrongdoing. God himself struck people dead in both the Old and New Testaments, was he acting immorally because he was preventing salvation which they could have attained had he let them live? Obviously not.

Pro argues that my argument misconstrues morality and justice. Not so. While justice is indeed concerned about equal treatment, it also is concerned with dispensing what is deserved. Since life itself is a gift from God, God may order that this gift be taken away under certain circumstances. Since salvation itself is a gift from God, the opportunity to attain it may be denied to some because of their own evil.

Verses Supporting Pacifism?

Pro largely concedes the point here. One should note that issues of personal conflict do not extend to issues of the state or in situations where one's life is threatened. As the Bible says, render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and render to God what is God's.


1. Robert W. Brimlow, What about Hitler? Wrestling with Jesus' Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006) 151

Debate Round No. 4


m0dernv0ltaire forfeited this round.


Pro has elected not to post a response. Arguments extended, vote Con.
Debate Round No. 5
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Contradiction 7 years ago
I should note that the Brimlow quote is from an ardent pacifist and illustrates the seriousness of the Hitler question.
Posted by kjw47 7 years ago
If one applys the teachings of Jesus to war- One couldnt get involved. Peace,Love, Unity, return evil for evil to no one, love your enemy,vengeance is mine said the lord. And never ever would it be Gods people vs Gods people as portrayed in the rev war- the civil war,ww1,ww2- brothers in christ killing brothers in christ-- or was it??? NO-- The trinity based religions allowed their young men to kill for Hitler,kill the young men of the same religions who stood on the opposing side-- not the Jesus i read about. All done for the word patriotism-every human on the planet is taught this from their youth up- unfortunatly Gods word teaches this-- satan leads every kingdom on earth ( govt,armies,supporters) against God at Harmageddon- And i tell you this--for the word patriotism 99.9% will be on the wrong side--- The road is narrow-few will find it.
Posted by baggins 7 years ago
And yet the Christian preachers regularly praise the teaching of turning of other cheek by Jesus (Peace on Him) (unlike Islam - as they emphasize) - without mentioning they don't really follow it :-(
Posted by m0dernv0ltaire 7 years ago
For Baggins, the large majority of Christian religions accept war, Jehovah's witnesses being the only major pascifistic Protestant denomination. My argument includes all pacifistic Christian religions.
Posted by m0dernv0ltaire 7 years ago
Woot! with 4 minutes and 50 seconds to go.
Posted by innomen 7 years ago
Impressive debate, nice job being done on both sides.
Posted by baggins 7 years ago
Interesting debate. I have often wondered about christian perspectives on this issue.

Incidentally, I would like to know Con's position on 'preventive war'?
Posted by m0dernv0ltaire 7 years ago
That should not be a Problem.
Posted by Contradiction 7 years ago
m0dernv0ltaire, I was wondering if you could wait to post your response until Tuesday. I have two AP exams on Wednesday and I don't want to find myself having to type up a lengthy response before then. Thanks.
Posted by m0dernv0ltaire 7 years ago
Alright, thanks for taking the debate up.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by jewgirl 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: F.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: M0dernv0ltaire has a limited understanding of Christian theology. This limited understanding resulted in a loss of argumentation, reliability and conduct.
Vote Placed by quarterexchange 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro acknowledged that God has waged many ruthless wars in the bible, but said that God never actually supported war. The mere fact that God waged war means that God thought war was simply an inevitable horrific event. Nobody actually likes war, but those who are pro-war have ideas of what is worth fighting and killing for. Pro acknowledged God did as well. Therefore Christian philosophy is not pacifist, when God himself is willing to have men fight and die in wars.