The Instigator
PhilK
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
CynicalDiogenes
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Christian Pacifism is incoherent

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
PhilK
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/8/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 945 times Debate No: 62886
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

PhilK

Pro

I contend that any version of Christianity that requires Pacifism of it's adherents is incoherent. By Christianity, I mean the most general type that affirms that Christ is God, and that he died and was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sin. By Pacifism, I mean the adherence to non-violence. The challenger must take the opposite position that following the teachings of Christ requires Pacifism.
CynicalDiogenes

Con

I accept.

I will allow pro to make his arguments first as I am curious to know why he feels that the religion that has inspired almost all of the Non-Violent civil movements around the world, including the ones started by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela, is somehow against pacifism.

Wish my opponent the best of luck!
Debate Round No. 1
PhilK

Pro

I very much appreciate you agreeing to debate this idea and that you are allowing me a chance to further explain. Best of luck to you as well. I love your screen name by the way.

Anytime someone makes a claim about reality he is required to give reasons, evidence, and arguments in favor of that position. As I am making the claim that Christianity that demands pacifism is incoherent I have a burden of proof to show that. As my opponent is making the opposite claim he has the burden of proof to show that.

So here is my argument.

Argument: Claiming Christianity demands Christians be Pacifists conflicts with one of Christianity"s key tenants, its universality. Christianity holds that it is for everyone everywhere, so to demand that Christians be Pacifists is to require everyone everywhere be Pacifists. However, this undermines the universality of Christianity because some type of violence is required for any human society to function. So to maintain that Christians must be Pacifists requires that some people in the world (the people performing the necessary violence) either not be Christians or not follow their faith. Christianity is then not universal. If violence is necessary for any human society to function and if Christianity is for everyone, then not all Christians can be Pacifists. Some or perhaps even most Christians could be Pacifists, but they cannot all be.

1. Human societies require at least some violent actions to function.
2. Christianity claims it is for all human societies.
3. Therefore, Christianity must allow for at least some violent actions.

Terms: I am defining Christianity in the broad sense as everything that affirms the truth of grace through Christ"s death and resurrection and God"s revelation of himself in the Bible. This includes virtually all Protestant and Catholic denominations, but excludes groups like Mormons and Jehovah"s Witnesses. I am defining Pacifism as the strict adherence to non-violence in all circumstances. Not all people who call themselves Pacifists define the term this way. There are people who describe themselves as Pacifists who would use some forms of violence to defend their lives or their families" lives but always object to fighting in wars. The more tolerant of violence the Christian Pacifist becomes the less valid this argument is.

Premise one: Violence is necessary for any human society to function. Many people are likely appalled by this, but it is true. Every human society has had (and needed) laws. Whether these laws are primarily social, legal, or cultural in nature does not matter. I am yet to find any serious person who will argue that a society without laws (in the broadest sense of the term) existed or that any group of people living together doesn"t need some set of rules. Even if those laws are things like, "the law of the jungle" or an unwritten and unspoken set of rules, they are still laws in every practical sense. Everyone agrees (at least I"ve found no one who disagrees, if anyone is aware of someone who does please let me know) that such rules are necessary. People who claim we don"t need laws usually mean that we don"t need written laws. They think that cultural and social laws or laws of common sense are enough. That may be, but the point is that at a practical level even these more basic rules function in way that is indistinguishable from a written code. I"ve never found an anarchist in the truest sense. They simply think that non-written laws are better than formal rules, but even these are still laws.

Laws always require enforcement. Any law without enforcement is as useless as a rock band without instruments, a gun without bullets, or a day without coffee, or a Christianity without Christ. There are laws that say don"t murder or steal, but if nothing is done to prevent or deter the murder and the thief the laws are useless. The murder keeps killing and the thief keeps stealing. The point of a law is to prevent certain types of behavior or to make it unlikely the behavior will occur again. So to have laws makes some type of enforcement necessary. Law enforcement has taken a lot of different forms, but all of these forms can be traced back to violence or the threat of violence. All law enforcement takes its power from violence or the threat of violence, so it is impossible to enforce laws without violence. I am quite sure this statement will generate many objections, but I encourage any objector to trace back the forms of enforcement and punishment to their source. The source is always violence or the threat of violence.

Violence and the threat of violence are indistinguishable in this sense. The threat only holds power if someone believes it will be carried out. If everyone only threatened violence and no one carried it out the threats would be useless. As an analogy, suppose all the police in a fictitious city were given orders to always threaten to shot suspects but never actually do it. Assuming that all the police followed the order, things would probably go well for a while. But eventually word would get around that Fictitious City Police threaten violence but never carry it out. Crime would probably rise and the police would be ineffective because they would have lost their power. While this is a fictitious example, the principal holds true. Threats of violence require actual violence backing them up to be effective. So threats of violence and actual violence are indistinguishable in this sense. Even something like a monetary fine as law enforcement is still a violent act at its core. Money is being forcibly taken from someone in a fine. If he refuses to pay the fine, law enforcement will have to use violence or threaten him so he will pay. Even if they only threaten to throw him in jail, that still requires violence. How else will the sentence be enforced if the man resists?

Because societies always need laws and some type of violence to enforce them, some type of violence (however limited I hope) is always necessary for society to function.

Premise two: Christianity claims it is universal. By this I mean that Christianity claims it is for the whole world. Not every religion makes this claim, but Christianity does. I doubt anyone who has studied Christianity will disagree with me here. There are numerous references in the Bible that make it plain that Christ and New Testament authors regarded Christianity as the way for all men (a non-gender specific use of "men" here).

So Christianity is universal. Its scriptures claim it is, and its adherents claim it is, and historically it has made efforts to spread all over the world.

Conclusion: The conclusion rests on the law of non-contradiction. A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same context. So Christianity cannot be universal and non-universal at the same time. It cannot demand an exceptional tenant (here I mean exceptional in the sense of "rare") and be universal. If Christianity demands both things, it just doesn't make sense and we should reject it. So I am forced to conclude that a version of Christianity that demands all Christians be Pacifists is self-defeating concept. Essentially;
1. Human societies require at least some violent actions
2. Christianity claims it is for all human societies
3. Christianity must allow for at least some violent actions

So I concluded that it is not logically valid to claim that following Christ demands Pacifism.

So it seems to me that my opponent must show why my argument is false, either by disputing the premises or showing the logic is flawed, then in some way demonstrate how Christianity does require pacifism, and that there is nothing incoherent or contradictory in Christian Pacifism.
CynicalDiogenes

Con

Hello,
I seem to a bit busy this week and have seriously understimated the time that i had in my hand. Nevertheless, I will post a decent argument to avoid a complete forfeit. I would love to debate the same topic with you once again sometime after November if you are up for it.

The argument you make are pretty interesting, but you seem to have a major misunderstanding of what Christianity teaches and seeks to achieve.

To put it succinctly ,Christianity is one of the few religions that require non-violence even under severe duress.It is a religion that also boldly predicts an age(second coming) when we will live in total peace and when 'the lamb will lay down with the lion'.

One of the distinguishing features of Christianity is that it teaches its followers to remain non-violent and peaceful even under extreme provocation and duress.

Matthew 5: 38-45- " You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," but I say to you, do not resist him who is evil but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, " You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy," but I say to you , love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous."

Is just one of the many many verses that promote followers to remain non-violent even when the circumstances seem to demand violence.

The greatest proof that Christianity requires pacifism is that Jesus himself often shunned his followers from committing acts of violence(Peter in Gesthamane), and chose not to lead a violent uprising as many expected him to do.Infact, he went one step further, and explicitly forgave all those who were responsible for brutally crucifying him, even though he was completely innocent of the things he was accused of, and never asked anyone, even God the father to avenge him.

Christ set the highest example for all Christians to emulate as he is believed to be of one substance with God himself.Almost all the martyrs and saints who are revered in Christianity were pacifists.

Any belief system that does not include pacifism directly contradicts scripture,the example set by Jesus and the Apostles, and cannot really be considered Christianity. It may tolerate violence under a certain set of extreme conditions, but true Christianity never openly promotes violence.

Also, You have simply assumed that all human societies require at least some violent actions.This assumption is completely unfounded and is diametrically opposed with the aims of Christianity. Christians not only aim to build a society that is both just and completely non-violent, they are actually sure that such a society will come up after the second coming of Christ.

A society in which everyone seeks to be as non-violent as Jesus, or atleast try to be like him, and are as forgiving as him does not really need any violence to function.There is little need for a government to allow for any form of violence of the civilians are easily willing to forgive any sort of loss, do not seek any form of hoarding or possession, and seek only their basic needs for survival for that day.

This may seem impractical, but this is what Christianity teaches. Whether christianity is a rational religion is the topic for another debate, but Christianity is not inconsistent

To conclude:
1. Christ demanded that his followers remain peaceful and non-violent even when provoked and lead by example.
2. An Ideal christian society, where everyone is as non-violent as Jesus does not require violence on any level.
3. The aim of every Christian is to imitate Christ in every way.
3.Thus, Christianity can require complete pacifism, tolerate a small amount of violence for self preservation until all societies follow it(Eg. Contingent Christian Pacifism)

Hence it is obvious that pacifism is a necessity if one wants to call oneself truly christian.

Thank you,
Cynical Diogenes
Debate Round No. 2
PhilK

Pro

No worries about the time frame my friend; it took me too long to respond as well. I appreciate your response and I’d be happy to discuss this with you another time.

Arguing from Christ's teaching misses the point of the orignal argument

First I think it’s important I clarify something. I am not claiming it is incoherent to be a Christian and a Pacifist. What I am claiming is that a version of Christianity that demands all Christians be Pacifists is incoherent. From your response, I’m not sure if you caught that distinction. To be a Christian you must accept certain things such as belief in God, belief in the divinity of Christ, belief in Christ’s death and resurrection, etc. I’m claiming if Pacifism is added to those fundamental things then Christianity becomes incoherent as it then teaches contradictory things. It would be akin to a religion that taught that you must make a pilgrimage to a holy site, but then elsewhere taught that no one should ever see the same holy site.

So I think your objection that Christ did teach Pacifism misses the point. If Christ did indeed teach Pacifism and the argument I give is valid, then orthodox Christianity teaches incoherence.

Christ did not clearly teach pacifism

But I don’t think it’s explicitly clear that Christ taught pacifism. When the original context that Christ taught from is considered that places the teachings in Matthew 5 in a different light. Christ said “do not resist him who is evil but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In Christ’s time you would strike someone who you considered your equal with your left hand and someone who you considered your lesser with your right. By turning your left cheek to your attacker you are effectively forcing them to acknowledge you as an equal or to stop striking you. Christ said “if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” In Christ's culture nudity did not shame the person who was naked, rather it was considered to shame the other person. So in affect by giving the offender your coat you are forcing shame upon them for his already bad actions. Christ also said “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two” This refers to a practice of the roman army where a soldier could force a local to carry his pack for one mile, but only one mile. Any further and the soldier could be several punished for “abusing” the person. So in effect these verses are not commanding pacifism or violence. Rather they are commanding a very clever third way that either forces the perpetrator to treat you as an equal, shames him, or causes him to be punished for what he did to you.

I appreciate how this can appear to be pacifistic on a first reading, but deeper analysis shows there is more going on here than Christ saying to simply lay down and take it.

You don’t have to take my word on it either.
http://libertarianchristians.com...
You can consult NT Wright on the subject as well
N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (Cambridge: University Press, 2002)

You also cite the example of Christ telling Peter that those who live by the sword die by the sword and I simply respond that a police officer who justly shoots and kills a murder or a rapist is hardly “living by the sword.” Rather he is acting in a just manner on behalf of the state to contain and minimize evil. Paul says as much in Romans 13:4 “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.

Premise 1 is not assumed, I argued for it.

Now I didn’t just assume that “Violence is necessary for any human society to function” I spent several paragraphs explaining and demonstrating why this is so. I think in order to show that this is not true you need to explain why the arguments and reasons I gave for it are false. I argued that

1. Any human society requires laws to function.

2. Laws without enforcement are unable to function as laws.

3. Enforcement is always carried out by violence or the threat of violence.

4. The threat of violence and actual violence are indistinguishable in the sense of law enforcement.

It doesn’t seem to me you really responded to or refuted any of these reasons. So this isn’t completely unfounded. I explained how and why this is the case and if you want to show that it is wrong you need to explain what is wrong with 1-4 above.

Your other objections.

You did say that Christians should behave separately from the rest of the world, but I think this argument is lacking. In order to establish that the issue of violence/pacifism is one of those areas where Christians should be separate from the world you must show that Christ explicitly taught non-violence in the same way the he explicitly taught submission to God. As I’ve argued the scripture you cited does not do that I don’t see how your argument there stands.

So I dispute numbers 1, 2, and 4 that you list in your conclusion. I argue that Christ did not teach Pacifism (tho I appreciate how it can appear so absent the an understanding of the cultural context) and that even a Christian society would need law enforcement. The people who carried out the law enforcement would need to be able to use or threaten violence otherwise their enforcement would be useless.

Perhaps all this changes on the Second Coming of Christ, but until we get there it seems to be the way things are. If you think not, then point me toward an example of an independent society that functions and survives without laws or the threat of violence. I have looked for such societies and not found them. If you have, then please point them out.

Pacifistic theorists often like to cite Amish and Mennonite communities as the very evidence I cannot see. While I find much to admire in Amish and Mennonite approach to life, I do not see how they can be held up as examples of non-violent communities because they are not independent communities. The ones in the United States enjoy the protection of the local police and the international protection of the US military. They can afford to be as pacifistic as they want to be because they do not have to worry about protecting themselves from external evil and violence. If some Amish or Mennonite people operated their own sovereign country, I think that would be a very strong case worth considering. But they don’t, so it’s not. Most citizens of legitimate and mostly just countries can and probably should be as pacifistic as the Amish and Mennonites are. Having police and a military enable most people to act non-violently and that is a good thing.

The point is that as long as there is sin, it will be necessary for the state to enforce laws to contain and minimize the evil that sin brings. The only way possible to enforce such laws is on the foundation of violence.

One final note of importance is that none of the church creeds such as the Apostle's Creed claim that followers of Christ must be pacifistic. The Church creeds are silent on this issue. This shows is the even the early church fathers (who were on average more likely to be pacifistic) did see pacifism as essential to following Christ.

At certain points you seemed to concede that some violence is necessary for the state to function, or did I misunderstand you there? It seems that if you concede some limited amount of violence is necessary then the argument stands.

Conclusions on your objections.

I hope I haven’t misunderstood you at any point and if I have please correct me, but it seems that you did not address my reasons for premise 1, you did not dispute the logic of my argument, the examples of Christ's teaching you cite miss the thrust of the argument, and upon close study those same teachings do not hold up as pacifistic in nature. So for the moment, I conclude my original argument stands.

CynicalDiogenes

Con

CynicalDiogenes forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
PhilK

Pro

Since my opponet seems to be unable to respone I will just restate my pervious conclusions (and correct a really bad typo) and hope he responds in the next round.

One final note of importance is that none of the church creeds such as the Apostle's Creed claim that followers of Christ must be pacifistic. The Church creeds are silent on this issue. This shows is that even the early church fathers (who were on average more likely to be pacifistic) did not see pacifism as essential to following Christ.

At certain points you seemed to concede that some violence is necessary for the state to function, or did I misunderstand you there? It seems that if you concede some limited amount of violence is necessary then the argument stands.

Conclusions on your objections.

I hope I haven’t misunderstood you at any point and if I have please correct me, but it seems that you did not address my reasons for premise 1, you did not dispute the logic of my argument, the examples of Christ's teaching you cite miss the thrust of the argument, and upon close study those same teachings do not hold up as pacifistic in nature. So for the moment, I conclude my original argument stands.

CynicalDiogenes

Con

CynicalDiogenes forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by PhilK 2 years ago
PhilK
I made a rather important typo in the third to last paragraph of my second argument. The last sentence should read "This shows is the even the early church fathers (who were on average more likely to be pacifistic) did not see pacifism as essential to following Christ" instead of "This shows is the even the early church fathers (who were on average more likely to be pacifistic) did see pacifism as essential to following Christ."
My apologies for the mistake.
Posted by PhilK 2 years ago
PhilK
I really hope CynicalDiogenes posts a response. I can't message him to find out.
Posted by PhilK 2 years ago
PhilK
Well if you think that settles the matter debate me on it ;)
Posted by Wocambs 2 years ago
Wocambs
Didn't Jesus say that those who live by the sword, die by the sword? Seems pretty pacifistic.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Jzyehoshua 2 years ago
Jzyehoshua
PhilKCynicalDiogenesTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro obviously made the more detailed, well thought-out argument, so points to Pro, although Con to their credit did make a brief attempt to contest with some thought-provoking arguments. I would also point out that in Revelation 19 Jesus returns at the head of an army as a destroying conqueror, and that the entire motive for pacifism is actually to see the evil punished in the next life. (Rom. 12:20, Rev. 13:10) Not to mention the entire dilemma of Israelite nations in the Old Testament being endorsed by God to defeat rival nations through force. Kudos to Pro for a thought-provoking topic and debate however.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
lannan13
PhilKCynicalDiogenesTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture