Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pacifism or Not

So, this guy's bad argument against pacifism irked me, and at least some others, and then there were at least incomplete counters there. Point being, I'd like discussions about theology to be for the sake of reaching some kind of agreement, so can we please, first, give arguments, and, second, ones that are neither stupid, nor offensive?

So, to begin with, if the question is "As Christians, should we be pacifists?" then my first question is "What is this 'pacifism' thing?" I take it that pacifism is the belief that one ought never to intend anyone's death, and a pacifist is one who tries to live according to that belief.

So, first, the original stupid argument (note: ':.' means 'therefore'):
1. Christian pacifism is sometimes based on this verse which commands not murdering.
2. Murdering is different from killing in a legally significant way.
:. 3. This verse does not (on its own) support Christian pacifism.
:. 4. Christian pacifism is wrong...
Right, up until 3., that was fine, but 4. is a fallacy. Compare:
1. If this verse means that, then the other.
2. This verse does not mean that.
:. 3. Not the other.
This is a fallacy, "denying the antecedent." in logical form:
1. If p, then q
2. Not p
:. 3. Not q
Now, if it were 'If q, then p' in the first premise, that would be fine. But for that to be the case in the original would be something like "If Christians should be pacifists, then this verse must, on its own, mean this." Which seems like a stupid claim to make, to me anyway (imagine any other claim that any other verse on its own is supposed to show a belief to be right. If it were just this one verse supporting it, all he'd have to do is say something like "one oughtn't base a belief on a single verse" and he'd be done).

So, great, thank God that's over with. On to the other not-much-of-arguments (not quite so fallacious).

So, working with the argumenty things given by the others in the link above, working top to bottom.


1. We are to be loving.
2. God is love.
3. Jesus is the self-revelation of God.
:. 4. What Jesus did, we should imitate.

So far, so good.

5. Jesus died on a cross without fighting back (Jesus acted as a pacifist in this instance).
:. 6. We ought to always act like pacifists.

Hm... not quite so solid. Pretty good, though, and if you're going to make an argument in a short space, that is about as sound as I would expect. Add in Jesus's comments to Peter about the swords, and you really do have a decent argument. You are going to want to note a shift from physical to spiritual warfare between the Testaments, though, and then read the Revelation of John in a suitably spiritual way, but that, honestly, is not that hard.

I am largely convinced by this, actually. The problem I see, is that it may assume that all reasons people might attack me would be ones where I am limited to kill or be killed and where my death would be on account of my belief in Christ. My love of my neighbor is why I would like to think that I would kill only as a last resort. I suspect that in a good many cases, especially where it is only my life at stake, I would try to incapacitate them or, failing that, let them kill me. So I agree with the priorities there.

The question arises when it is someone for whom my dying is almost certainly not going to affect anything. Christ's death freed us from our sins. His death effected changes in at least some of those watching. If my death was going to be like his in that way, then there is an argument to be made. If not, then I'm not sure the parallel stands. One might argue that I have no way of knowing whether my dying pacifistically will make them question how I could do such a thing, and thus lead them to Christ. True. Again, my best case scenario is for us both to live, and for me to forgive them. Second best, only I die. Third, they die. The pacifist wants third to be more than just I die, but I don't kill the guy attacking me. Really? I don't want to kill any more than anyone else, but should I sacrifice everyone else for the sake of this one? There seems to be some tension here. Should Christ spiritually killing the enemy for the sake of his bride be mirrored by physical fighting against those who would kill our families? Is there something wrong with this other-preservation instinct which I have, such that I would kill to save others? I agree that it is the worse end, and that one should mourn having to take that action, yet I suspect that I still would if it came to that.

Right, on to the next one: King.

Erm... actually, this isn't that great an argument so far as I can tell.
1. The Sermon on the Mount increases the requirement from do not kill to go reconcile with the other.
2. Pacifism is not non-resistance, but a way of resisting.
:. 3. No killing ever.

Okay... funny, I read that and thought "so... why pacifism again?" Apparently loving another requires never for any reason killing them (I should note that King is ignoring the kill/murder distinction which, while not conclusive, I do think is relevant). Well, I'll agree that it makes it a horrible thing to have to do, but I do not see why it makes it something one may never do. Again, there can be a conflict between this one's life and the life of another who I also love. If I can save the others, even if it means I must kill this one, should I? If it were only my life at stake, I would give it up to save my attacker, but if my giving up of my life means others lose their lives against their will... then I will feel guilt again. Yes I trust God, and I hope he never requires this decision of me, I trust he will give a third way if that circumstance arises, I hope that my martial arts training allows me to keep from having to kill anyone in such a circumstance, but I will if that is the only option I see open to me. Again, this argument may work fine, but only in certain highly restricted circumstances.

Sprinkle: I don't see an argument here, and I have no idea what he is talking about with Romans 12 and 1 Peter 2-3. He is mostly just saying that pacifists are not pansies, which I wouldn't argue with anyway. So... on to the next. McKnight, who is making pretty much the same point--that pacifism is not inactive. And finally: Wilson-Hartgrove, making the same point.

Okay, Wilson-Hartgrove helps me make sense of the verses Sprinkle referenced. Wilson-Hartgrove talk about not returning evil for evil as if it were synonymous with killing someone trying to kill you, which is question-begging. The verses Sprinkle refers to also talk about how we are not supposed to return evil for evil, so I am guessing that is mostly what he is talking about. So, they are both question-begging (So... they're fallacious too). Yes, we all agree we aren't supposed to return evil for evil, the question is whether killing is always evil, even when done to protect others.

Okay, so, the first two arguments were okay... the other three not so much, apart from the "pacifism is not the same as inactivity," which isn't totally useless. Still, not an argument for pacifism.

Hopefully this post has presented an argument which is neither irrational nor offensive. Hopefully, too, some further progress can be made on this issue. I suggest that the pacifists ought to show why I ought to prefer someone else murdering others to my killing (which is not necessarily murder, or if it is, still needs to be shown to be) the one who would murder.

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