A Theonomic Defense of Pacifism
Pacifism as a Tool of Christian Reconstruction and Dominion
|Human beings were created to have "dominion" over the earth.
Man was not created to be passive, but active. We plant, we reap. Food doesn't fall off the trees into our mouths. We design, we build. Houses don't grow on trees.
We are to gain knowledge and mastery (Latin, scientia) of nature; to classify and use to the benefit and betterment of man. By gaining knowledge, by applying it to the creation, by working, we exercise dominion.
The final goal is for the Garden of Eden to be transformed into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22).
|Peace is the highest goal of Christian ethics.
Q. How do we "love?" What constitutes "love?"
|"Capital Punishment" and Liturgical Bloodshed
"National Defense" and Liturgical Bloodshed
Pacifism, Limited Government, and Anarchism
The Pacifism Debate: Selected E-mail and Newsgroup posts
How to Become a Theonomic Pacifist.
Answering an Anti-Pacifist Critic
Weighing the Social Costs
Pacifism + Dominion = "Capitalism"
Many Americans are confused about what "pacifism" means. They think it means "passivity." Do-nothing. Especially in the face of evil. Just stand there. Turn your wife over to the rapist.
Many Americans are confused about what "capitalism" means. They think it means "what's going on in America today." The government takes your money and gives it to a big business like Halliburton; that's "capitalism" in the eyes of many people.
On this website, Capitalism means pacifism. It means the government does not threaten you with violence, so you get to decide what to do with what you earn and own. If you want to go into business and produce widgets and sell them to consumers, you're free to do so under pacifist-capitalism, with no threats of violence from the government, and (in a moral, Christian, pacifist world), no threats of violence from customers or competitors.
Under anti-pacifist socialism, the government threatens you with violence if you don't produce the widgets the government orders you to produce. Anti-pacifist socialist governments threaten you with violence if you try to buy widgets from a seller who is not approved by the government, or whose price is not government-approved.
This kind of anti-pacifist socialism arises in a society where people are generally not pacifists, but are filled with envy, believe they are "entitled" to everything they want, and are willing to initiate force against those who have what they want and use violence against those who stand in the way of their own personal peace and affluence.
Under pacifist-capitalism, I cannot initiate force against my neighbor if he chooses to make widgets and compete against me. As a consumer, you are free to buy from me or from your neighbor. I must compete with your neighbor to get your business by serving your best interests (as you define them). If my widgets are the highest quality and the lowest price, I'll get your business. If my widgets are not as good as those made by my competitor, or cost more, I won't get your business, because I won't be serving your best interests.
Under socialism, consumers have to buy everything from the government. No competition = No choice.
If you're a great Christian, you'll work harder and more efficiently, and eventually get my business.
Whiners are not capitalists, as that word is used on this website. They are not pacifists, because they seek to impose their desires on others by force, rather than working self-sacrificingly to serve others.
Perhaps you're a "fascist," or some form of "socialist." But you're not a capitalist, no matter how big your business becomes, if you are willing to initiate force and employ violence to get what you want.
Capitalists believe in persuasion, not coercion."America" stands for "capitalism."
"Capitalism" means "liberty."
"Capitalism" means "pacifism."
The whole world knows that capitalism works and socialism is a failure. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union shout this truth across the globe.
And yet, virtually everyone in the United States has been trained in government schools and by a government-dominated media to believe that violence is better than pacifism, that socialism is better than capitalism, and that no economy can succeed without some socialist violence.
Most Americans over 50 were taught that “capitalism” was better than “socialism,” and that America was “capitalist.” More recently, “capitalism” has fallen out of favor. The ostensibly conservative Richard Nixon famously quipped, “We are all Keynesians now,” by which he meant, nobody is a “capitalist” anymore. Few people today are willing to identify themselves as defenders of capitalism. Capitalism is not trendy in our day. A self-identified “socialist” is far more likely to get a teaching position at a major university than one who openly defends “laissez-faire capitalism,” ceteris paribus.
In the last few years I have been studying capitalism in more detail, by reading the works of those who defend it most passionately. This study has been an eye-opening experience. I believe “capitalism,” rightly understood, is more compatible with Christianity than socialism in any degree.
That little phrase “rightly understood” is the whole enchilada.
The story is told of the six blind men who offered descriptions of an elephant. Each was viewing only a part of the animal, one feeling the trunk, another the tail, another the huge legs, etc., and their varied descriptions of “an elephant” reflected their limited investigation.
Most descriptions of “capitalism” (particularly by those who attack it) are as far from reliable as those of the blind men. More ironically, the blind critics of capitalism are not only viewing only a part of the economic animal, but they are actually describing themselves, with one socialist critic of “capitalism” describing his own leg, another socialist critic of “capitalism” describing his own ear, etc. In other words, most criticisms of “capitalism” are criticisms of policies which are completely un-capitalistic, or they are pointing to problems created by socialism, not capitalism.
The name “capitalism” was coined by Karl Marx, a vehement opponent of capitalism. Capitalists have adopted Marx’s term as their own (without accepting Marx’s content, of course). One of the most comprehensive defenses of capitalism is George Reisman’s treatise on Capitalism. It is a huge book, but easy reading, and full of insights. I would now put him among my top ten favorite writers.
After a good deal of study, I offer this definition of capitalism:
Capitalism is a social system based on
This definition will surprise many who attack capitalism. Ask a critic of capitalism to define “capitalism” and the critic’s definition will not even be close to this definition. Nevertheless, I do not know a single self-described defender of capitalism who would disagree with this definition. In fact, most would agree it gets to the very heart and soul of the dispute between capitalism and socialism. For the benefit of those who doubt, I would be happy to supply the quotations and footnotes from the writings of self-conscious defenders of capitalism to buttress my claim. The quotes would be many and lengthy. I would quote Ayn Rand, George Reisman, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and many other defenders of capitalism.
As an example, the Libertarian Party, unquestionably the political party most vigorously committed to capitalism, requires its members to sign this pledge in order to join the party:
I do not believe in or advocate
That is the full extent of the Libertarian Party membership pledge. It is widely viewed as the sine qua non of libertarianism. It is often referred to by defenders of capitalism as “the principle of non-aggression.” (Of course, anyone can vote Libertarian, without taking "the Pledge.")
This is not just an abstract academic debate. Socialism rationalizes violence. Socialism has meant slavery and death to hundreds of millions of human beings. Too many on the left who claim to be for peace defend The Welfare State (welfare socialism), which turns out to be window-dressing for The Warfare State. To oppose capitalism is to oppose the only economic system that repudiates the initiation of all violence. To wrongly define capitalism as a system that “exploits” the poor, or in some other way initiates force against others, is to pull the plug on an effective force for peace.
Rightly understood, then, an attack on capitalism is an attack on the heart and soul of Christian ethics. To say “I am not a capitalist” is to say “I support the use of violence to get what I want.”
Again, this is based on the definition of capitalism offered by the most scholarly defenders of capitalism, not those who attack it.
Find someone who is called a "capitalist" who uses the violence and coercion of the State to crush his competitors and exploit the poor, and you have found someone that every self-identified defender of capitalism would say is not a "capitalist."
America became the most admired nation on earth because it stood for the proposition that capitalism (liberty and non-aggression) succeeds and socialism (slavery and violence) fails.
Throughout this website we have discussed over 200 areas of human endeavor where it is often alleged that Americans could not succeed without government regulation. But all you have to do is look at the things you have and enjoy, compare your life with that of most people living in socialist countries, and ask, "If the federal government were to be abolished, would entrepreneurs and businessmen make sure that I had access to the best quality at the lowest price?"
If you answer no -- for example,
and you added,
-- then you have a religious faith in the State and its regulators, and believe that when greedy businessmen and stupid consumers are elected to government positions by their greedy and stupid peers, these newly-elected human beings suddenly lose their greed and stupidity and become altruistic and intelligent overseers of others. -- Transubstantiation? --
History tells us that where there is "Liberty Under God," you and I will work hard, with creativity and integrity, to provide goods and services which benefit the lives of others. We will find ways to produce better goods than our competitor and will bend over backwards to do so at a lower cost. In our efforts to get the business of others, we will improve the lives of our customers, because we know that where there is liberty, our customers have the freedom to shop elsewhere, and other Americans have the freedom to start a business which will sell what consumers demand.
History proves that capitalism works and socialism fails. The great economists have explained why:
Mises in particular, and his Nobel Prize-winning student, F. A. Hayek, conclusively proved that without the price mechanism of the free market, socialist planners can never allocate resources in the most efficient manner. Mises’ work has never been refuted:
This website accepts as a matter of unchanging economic law the fundamental inefficiency of centralized government planning over free market decision-making. The reader can turn to the bibliography below for a nearly complete defense of the concept.
Tragically, most Americans do not understand how capitalism works. This makes them easy prey for socialist demagogues.
Suppose we lived under a completely socialist government. All of our shoes are made by the government and distributed to the people by the government "Ministry of Shoes." Suppose some radical libertarian proposed turning over the business of making shoes to a competitive, profit-based system. We might hear something like this:
Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard answers these questions:
The "orchestration" of which Rothbard speaks has also been called "the Invisible Hand." Liberty Under God organizes society better than atheistic socialism. Or even "Christian" socialism.
If socialism is a violation of basic economic laws, then our concept of "the government" must be repudiated. The key to a well-governed society is Christian pacifism, or "Liberty Under God," not "the government." The key to prosperity is capitalism, not socialism. Every action of "the government" is the imposition of socialism. We must eliminate every trace of socialism from America.
But what about crime?
OK, you concede, capitalism builds better and cheaper cars than the Kremlin. But what about crime? If we abolish the government, crime will break out and capitalism will collapse into "anarchy" (chaos).
This too is statism.
This is the belief that you and I are basically criminals in waiting, and only politicians can be trusted to keep us in line. Of course, you and I and other criminals in waiting are the ones who will "vote" for these sanctified and benevolent overseers, who will keep us from acting out our criminal proclivities. Although in every other area of our lives we are "depraved," when we vote for politicians, we don't vote for criminals, we are wise and community-oriented. Once depraved criminals like you and I "vote" for our fellow depraved criminals, when elected and sworn into office they become sanctified protectors of law and order and keep us from our depraved ways.
If you own a business, you cannot be trusted to hire a security agency to guard your store. Your insurance agency isn't smart enough to tell you to hire a protection service in order to continue your insurance coverage. And I must be forced to pay for your security service with "taxes," because I am too greedy and you are too stupid to make sure your business is safe.
Here are the links to prove that this statist thinking is unrealistic:
Socialism could never have done these things, so we say to socialists, "Laissez-faire!" [back]
Capitalism and Morality
The connection drawn above between capitalism and non-violence is just the tip of the iceberg. Capitalism depends on all ten of the Ten Commandments. America's Founding Fathers recognized that without Christian morality, society would be doomed to totalitarian despotism. Liberty (and a rising standard of living) depends on morality.
About the Author
In a nutshell, Kevin Craig has been a "Christian Reconstructionist" since 1977. His first Chalcedon Report article appeared in 1979. He received personal tutoring from R.J. Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen, and shared the pulpit with David Chilton at Reformation Bible Church in Anaheim, CA. More details are available.
About the Reader
If you are a Christian, you are a pacifist. If you are not a pacifist, you are not following the Prince of Peace. You have reached a web site that would like to see you become a better pacifist!
What Is "Theonomy?"
"Theonomy" is an influential conservative Christian movement loosely equated with the "Christian Reconstruction" movement. "Theonomy" comes from two Greek words, "God" and "Law." It attempts to establish the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, advocating the social implementation of God's Law in both Testaments. More Here. A whole lot more here.
The Basic Conflict
"Theonomists" and "Christian Reconstructionists" tend to be "macho." They believe in "taking dominion." "Dominion" and "pacifism" seem to be poles apart, with "pacifism" being labeled "wimpy" or "soft on crime." This website argues that Theonomy requires pacifism, and pacifism leads to global Christian Reconstruction.
Why Americans in Particular Have Trouble Hearing God's Law on Pacifism
Anyone attempting to prove that Biblical Law requires pacifism must come to grips with the fact that the United States of America may well be the most violent nation on earth. Since 1973, 49 million Americans have been murdered by their own mothers. Americans take for granted the idea that if anyone gets in the way of your instant gratification, any steps -- including violence -- may be taken.
Some patriots will chafe at that assertion, but the ideology goes back to the formation of the United States, a beginning splattered with blood. "Christian Reconstructionists" debate whether the colonists had legal basis for rebelling, whether they were rebelling against Parliament or against the king, whether it was a revolution or "a conservative counter-revolution," and on and on. This scholarly-sounding mumbo-jumbo is simply an evasion of the stark evil which was the Revolution. Blatantly in violation of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, the Revolution was also a plain violation of the commandment not to kill. Consider this excerpt from the blood-splattered link above:
The government levies a tax on you. What is your response as a Christian?
If you answered "c," you lose. Jesus says "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew. 26:52). If human life means less to you than taxes, or less than a particular political theory, then you have missed the Gospel.
Worse than that, America once had the Gospel, and threw it away. The conflict in 1776 was not a group of colonists who were told they could not preach the Gospel. It was a group of merchants who did not want to submit to "the powers that be." They would rather destroy property and kill government agents than pay a tax one-tenth the size of the taxes we routinely pay today.
The casualties on both sides of this War were (are) staggering. How many Christians died? How many murders were committed over the issue of taxes? America was baptized in violence, materialism, and autonomous revolution.
This baptism resulted in the creation of a reprobate nation whose violence has gone unabated. While Britain and most other Christian nations abolished slavery without resorting to violence, the Unitarian United States fought an incredibly destructive Civil War. And when the most recent 200 years of American history are compared with the first 200 years, a Christian can only shed a tear at the decline of a "City Upon a Hill" into the Sugar Daddy of international socialism and bastion of the fascist New World Order.
Most Christians do not think of themselves as pacifists because they think of themselves as Americans. Unfortunately, America is an anti-Christian nation. America is a Secular Humanist Theocracy. For a Christian to think of himself as an American is as senseless as a Christian thinking of himself as an Islamic Fundamentalist. If you see the contradictions, you will be saying, "How can I become a better pacifist?" Well, you're in luck; the Bible tells you how.
The problem goes back to the origin of America. Whereas the original colonies were more or less Christian Theocracies, much of the formation of the Federal Government involved an attempt to get away from Christian Theocracy. There may have been some Christians involved in the effort, but they were not consistent with the Scriptures.
My goal as a pacifist is to follow the Scriptures even when it contradicts the reigning mythology of America. I trust that your goal - whether you call yourself a "pacifist" or not - is the same: God before country.
The Biblical texts considered in the links above are sufficient to prove the case for pacifism. If you have digested those links, you might be ready to consider more Biblical evidence for Pacifism.
The Prince of Peace and the Law of Love
Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). "Pacifism" comes from the Latin word for "peace." This might be considered a prima facie case for pacifism in itself. But strangely, when the average conservative Christian is asked, he doesn't say "Yes, of course I'm a pacifist [and then clarify the term if need be]." The average American reacts quickly and angrily: "I ain't no pacifist."
Jesus said the entire Law and Prophets might be summed up in the command to love God and love your neighbor, which Jesus taught included our "enemies." Under the Sixth Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill"), the Westminster Larger Catechism explicates the Biblical requirements of non-violence. One could hardly imagine a fuller statement of pacifism.
But a clearer statement could be imagined: it would be obtained by removing three "exceptions" to the law of love which have crowded out pacifistic ethics since the time of Constantine. The Catechism teaches that "publick justice" (i.e., "capital punishment"), "lawful war," and "necessary defense" are all exceptions to the negative requirement not to kill, or the positive command to love one's "enemy." We should examine each of them, culminating in the death of our faith in the whole idea of the State itself.
"Self Defense" and the Way of the Cross
Jesus says we are to love our neighbor, even our "enemy." Jesus also says that no greater love exists than to give one's life for another. Jesus did not defend Himself when His life was threatened. Peter writes that this is a model for us (1 Peter 2:21-23). Some say, "But Jesus was giving His life as an atoning sacrifice; I'm not the Lamb of God; I've got to be 'responsible.'" This analysis completely overthrows the ethical teachings of Jesus. Read the passages again.
Some find a justification for lethal self-defense in Exodus 22:2-3. Some find here a "right" to lethal self-defense. Indeed, some find here a mandate for killing. This is astonishing. The passage actually says that if you engage in lethal self-defense you are guilty of murder and must be executed! An exception arises at night, and one who kills a home-invader will not be executed under those circumstances. But this is far from advocating lethal self-defense! And once again, even if the passage seemed to teach exactly what opponents of pacifism said it did, the whole system of ethics taught by Jesus would be negated by one passage. Everything else in the Catechism's exposition of the Sixth Commandment -- commands which should govern most of our daily lives -- is overturned by one "exception" -- a hypothetical exception which never even occurs in the lives of most people.
The willingness to give your life for another is not "impractical." I'd like to show you how it has worked for me. John Howard Yoder has edited a book entitled What Would You Do?, which contains numerous accounts of how people have dealt with violent threats without themselves resorting to violence. But we must begin with the authority of Scripture, and admit that even if it doesn't "work," pacifism is still Christ's Command.
"Capital Punishment" and Liturgical Bloodshed
Another concept that has a tendency to overthrow everything else in the Catechism's exposition of the Sixth Commandment is the idea of "Capital Punishment." The Old Testament says nothing about "Capital Punishment." The Old Testament says that when certain sins are committed, there must be a shedding of blood to cleanse the land of bloodguiltiness (Numbers 35:33). "Cleanse" = "make atonement." This is a liturgy, not a penal sanction. Our ideas on "Capital Punishment" have been derived from Roman Law, not Biblical Law.
In Deuteronomy 21, the response to an unsolved homicide is the killing of an heifer. No responsible expositor believes that in A.D. 2009 the State should kill a cow when a homicide occurs but the perpetrator is not convicted. I think this is quite Biblical. No blood should be shed in such a case (Hebrews 10:4). But if we can convict the perpetrator, should we then shed his blood (Genesis. 9:4-5)? If our society needs to shed blood in the case of a solved homicide (Numbers 35:33), why not also in the case of an unsolved homicide (Deuteronomy 21)?
"Capital Punishment" is an issue of great consequence, and erroneous conclusions have been reinforced by centuries of Christian-Humanist syncretism. Accordingly, my page, The Death Penalty Debate, is a little on the long side.
"National Defense" and Liturgical Bloodshed
The thinking behind war also comes from Rome. The Bible says that Holy Wars were the execution of "capital punishment" on a national scale. Not just against one criminal, but against an outlaw nation. The Bible clearly says that the Canaanites polluted the Promised Land with their Leviticus 18-20 - type sins. The entire nation had to be dedicated to God as a sacrifice in order to cleanse the land. War in the Old Covenant was conducted by priests as a liturgical event. The objective was the shedding of blood. The pacifist says it is no longer theologically necessary to shed blood in "Holy War," but the Westminster Larger Catechism says otherwise, citing Jeremiah 48:10: "cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood."
"Holy War" in the Old Testament was, with "capital punishment," a liturgical shedding of blood. War was an act of national "Capital Punishment." After Christ's work on Calvary, there is no longer a Biblical justification for "Holy War," and therefore no justification for war of any kind (Micah 4:3).
Pacifism, Limited Government, and Anarchism
If there is no justification for "Capital Punishment," and no justification for war, is there any justification for the State at all? Have we abolished "the Sword"?
If there is one thing that unites "Christian Reconstructionists" involved in politics, it is the ideal of "limited government." Undoubtedly more than 98% of the current Federal Budget would be eliminated in a Theonomist utopia. Welfare, Education, Foreign Aid to socialists, economic intervention, and the fire-bombing of "religious wackos" in Texas would all be eliminated by Theonomists as lacking Constitutional mandate, to say nothing of Scriptural mandate. But anyone who calls for an elimination of the remaining 2% of the Federal Government (criminal law and "national defense") would be called a "heretic" and denounced in scathing language by these same Theonomists. As close as Reconstructionists are to libertarians, they freak out at the idea of being mistaken for "anarchists."
The Bible plainly teaches anarchism. Jesus said that the Gentile kings love to be "archists," but His followers are not to be so. That is the definition of an "an-archist": a servant, not an archist (Mark 10:42-45). The "chaos" we envision in a state of "anarchy" is really the chaos of lots of would-be archists attempting to impose their concept of order (or dis-order) on others through terrorist violence. There is no ethical distinction between these terrorists and the U.N.-approved "smart-bombs" that killed half a million women and children in Iraq.
The Bible teaches that "national security" is more likely to result when there is no State at all than when there is a strong central government. Human beings were created by God in families, and there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God intended human beings to leave patriarchy and pursue politics. The political paradigm has failed. We must return to the Edenic paradigm of Patriarchy.
The Pacifism Debate: Selected E-mail and Newsgroup posts
I don't claim to have the last word. I still have doubts and questions. I appreciate strong dissenting arguments. Mail them to me at Kevin4VFT[at]VFTonline.org. Read some of them here.
How to Become a Pacifist
O.K., forget the word "pacifist." Just ask, "How can I be a better Christian?" or "How can I 'be at peace with all men?'" (Hebrews 12:14) (Frankly, I think our sanctification has to come to a point where we don't care what other people call us. I would rather be called a "pacifist" than an "American." At least if I'm being called a pacifist [or, more likely, "stupid pacifist!"] it will be because I am perceived as different from a nation of people who will kill other human beings over a relatively small amount of money. There's an ancient and very wise proverb that I just made up which goes something like this: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but emotion-laden labels are just a way of avoiding my argument.")
Slowly but surely I am posting the steps toward pacifism. If you have your own suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.
Vine & Fig Tree
Taney County, Missouri
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