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Christian Pacifism

Review of book: The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down by David W. Bercot, 2003, Scroll Publishing Company, Amberson, PA. This book is written from an Anabaptist perspective, which is harmonious with the teachings of Mennonites and similar denominations. I actually have sympathy with their pacifist views, and support the idea that such pacifists should not be inducted into the armed forces. Certainly, Bercot and those of his persuasion are sincerely trying to apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to their daily lives. We can heartily commend them for this valiant attempt, and believe that radical obedience is sorely lacking in contemporary churches. Much in this book is sound and scriptural. However, I will focus on the points that I disagree with, and those concern the right of Christians to self-defense, and the service of Christians in the government, police and armed forces.

1. The Kingdom

Bercot apparently believes that Jesus inaugurated an earthly kingdom in A. D. 30 when He began His preaching ministry. One of Bercot's supporters said the following in a review of his book:

Jesus and John the Baptist both came PROCLAIMING (not preaching) the KINGDOM OF GOD and they said, "REPENT" the Kingdom is here NOW! Peter also said "REPENT" on the Day of Pentecost, and Paul as well taught repentance. ALL proclaimed the Kingdom and ALL REQUIRED repentance. They also said WE MUST OBEY the Word of God. 1)

And that is truly the cornerstone of Bercot's book. He believes that the kingdom of God has come. He maintains, “A lot of Christians have the idea that the kingdom of God is something only in the future. But, no, the kingdom of God is something that is here right now.”2) He also says that any kingdom has four components: 1. Ruler(s), 2. Subjects, 3. Domain, and 4. Laws.3) This is the basis of his book, and it is not completely in error.

It is true that Jesus did preach (or proclaim)4) the kingdom of God (or kingdom of Heaven). John the Baptist (in Matthew 3: 2) said that the kingdom of God was “at hand.” In Luke 10:9, Jesus told the seventy disciples to say, “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” So there was a sense in which the kingdom of God had come. It was very near them. It was at the door. We might say, “It was so close that they could taste it.” But did the kingdom come in the literal sense of the word in A. D. 30, as Bercot says? The answer has to be “no.”

However, if the above verses were all that we had, we would be justified in thinking so. And in some sense of the word, the kingdom did come. But there are other shades of meaning. There was also a sense in which the kingdom that Jesus was discussing was a spiritual and not a literal kingdom; at least it had not yet become a literal kingdom. John 18: 36 says this:

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In other words, this seems to be saying that the kingdom had not yet come. The kingdom was a reality, but it was not of this world. Note also that Jesus is not rejecting the idea that His followers might fight in some circumstances.

The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6: 9–13 and Luke 11: 2–4) includes a plea that God's kingdom might come. This must mean that the kingdom has not come, otherwise why should Jesus instruct His followers to pray for it? So there must be a sense in which the kingdom is coming, but not yet here.

Furthermore, Jesus (Luke 17: 20) said this:

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in within you.”

It is hard to square Jesus' explanation with Bercot's simplistic idea that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in 30 A. D. with all its appurtenances. Jesus said it can't even be observed, since it is an internal, presumably a spiritual, kingdom. So this seems to say that there is a sense in which the kingdom is present, but it is spiritual. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 15: 50 when Paul informs us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

In Luke 19: 11, the disciples apparently thought the kingdom of God would immediately appear. The context indicates that they were in error and that it would not immediately come. So we can see that even though it was now A. D. 33, the kingdom had not come, even though it had been proclaimed for three years. Clearly, the kingdom was not inaugurated in A. D. 30. This was further emphasized in Acts 1: 6, when the disciples asked if the resurrected Lord would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus did not directly answer, but did tell them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Apparently the restoration of the kingdom of Israel would be delayed, and it seems that the same can be said for the kingdom of God.

In fact, the kingdom of God usually seems to be associated with the last days. In 2 Timothy 4: 1, Paul ties the judgment of the living and the dead with the coming of Jesus Christ and the appearance of His kingdom. in Revelation 12:10, we see a similar idea:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”

This confirms that the kingdom of God will come in the last days. Jesus said the same in Luke 21: 10-91, 31: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom … even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus will hand the kingdom to God the Father when He has destroyed all other forms of earthly power when the end comes (see 1 Corinthians 15: 24).

So we can see that Bercot oversimplifies the situation when he says that the kingdom of God has come. There is a sense in which that is true, interestingly enough, but it seems to be a spiritual sense. All believers in Jesus Christ are members of the kingdom of God, but at present that is a spiritual and not an earthly kingdom, just as Jesus explained to Pilate.

2. Does a Christian Have the Right of Self-Defense?

Bercot says that a Christian does not have the right of self-defense. He even defends the idea that a Christian husband could not protect his wife or children from attack.5) But where does he get the idea that a child of God, in order to be a good citizen of God's kingdom, has to passively allow himself, his family, and his nation to be attacked, raped, and killed? He bases this on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 38-42):

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

So what about this sermon? Bercot says that these are the laws of God's kingdom, and we had better obey them, or else. He says that citizens of God's kingdom simply cannot resist evil by violent means. But is that what our Lord is saying here? I think not. Jesus is telling His followers that the old standards are no longer enough for a true child of God. If we are the injured party in a conflict, we should not attempt to use the law to our maximum advantage, even though we have a perfect right to do so. If we are the one in the wrong, or have a legal obligation, we should readily make restitution or perform the duty beyond what we are legally obliged to do. That is the point. Jesus is not changing the standards of judgment or stigmatizing self defense.

The command to “turn the other cheek” is not talking about passive acceptance of violence. This is not about someone who is meaning to cause you serious bodily harm. This is talking about someone who insults you, even an insult as grievous as slapping your face. Jesus says that we are not to let ourselves become provoked. We are to place ethical concerns over attempting to gain the maximum advantage that the law might allow. In fact, that is the context of all these verses. Christians should not allow themselves to become involved in petty squabbles and bickering, even if we are unjustly treated. We agree that these are principles upon which Christians should model their lives. But they say nothing about a supposed Christian duty to be a pacifist.

Notice that Jesus used the exact language in two other places (Matthew 5: 31-22 and 5: 27-28). Both of these sayings include the same formula “You have heard… But I say unto you…” to show the personal application of the laws on murder and adultery. But we never take this to mean that He was repealing the law against murder and adultery. It makes little sense to say that he repealed the principle “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” and did not repeal the law against murder and adultery, when He used that same language in all three cases. In this context, we can see that none of the “you have heard” commands are being repealed, but that they represent a minimum requirement that Christians must surpass. So Bercot is wrong when he says that the “eye for an eye” standard was repealed.6)

But what about loving our enemies? Does not Jesus say this, also? He certainly does (Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6: 27). We are to do good to those who hate us. But does this mean that we are to stand passively by while an intruder kills our children? Jesus commands that we should do the loving thing, even towards the intruder. But loving our enemy does not always mean giving him what he wants. It really means giving him what he needs. How is it beneficial to his immortal soul to allow him to commit a grievous sin? Surely the loving thing for our children and for the intruder is one and the same. We should do everything within our power to prevent the sin from being committed, even if it means the death of the intruder. Better he die than go to judgment with such a sin on his soul! So loving our enemies does not necessarily conflict with the idea that we can defend ourselves and our loved ones against evil, even if we use deadly force.

The New Testament does point out that armed self-defense does not provide perfect security. Certainly, it is not reasonable to claim that it does. For the Christian, our ultimate security rests with the Lord. Luke 11: 21-22 says: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.” But notice that the man is not condemned for defending himself with arms. The idea seems to be that such measures do not provide ultimate protection.

Bercot points out that Paul was often attacked while preaching the gospel, but did not use guards, even though he could have done so.7) As proof, he cites 2 Corinthians 10: 3-4:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

But this passage is not talking, one way or another, about Paul's right to self defense. Paul is saying that he is involved in a spiritual battle, not a normal earthly battle. Clearly that was true. But as to whether Paul ever used bodyguards, we must admit that we do not know. And Bercot does not know, either. He was wrong to say that Paul did not defend himself, since that is only an assumption.

There is another verse that Bercot could have used in this discussion and that is Matthew 7: 12, “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Some might think that this verse would be enough to prove that we cannot defend ourselves and our families by violent means. But does it? If I should go insane and attempt to kill a child, I would be forever grateful if someone were able to stop me in time, even if it meant my death. Most people, upon reflection, would say the same. Looking in the matter from that light, using violent means to protect ourselves or our families is quite compatible with the “golden rule.” It is treating others as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated.

And this makes sense when we look a bit deeper into God's Word. We recall the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David used violent means to fight Goliath. He used a sling to throw a stone into Goliath's brain, then cut off his head. This was not even a case of self defense, properly speaking. It was a form of warfare, using national champions to settle a dispute. If anyone can detect even a hint that this use of violence was displeasing to God, I would like to see it. To the contrary, it seems clear that David was able to win only because God empowered him. We can see that many characters of the Old Testament, from Abraham to Joshua and Caleb to David were men greatly honored by God and who used violence to kill their enemies and the enemies of God.

So if Abraham had a right to raise his own small army in self-defense, and if Israel had the same right, when was that right lost? When did God withdraw it, if He did so? Bercot is clearly saying that it happened when Jesus set up His kingdom on this earth. But as we have seen above, Bercot misunderstands what Jesus meant when He said that the Kingdom was “at hand.” In fact, the kingdom of God, even though very real in a spiritual sense, has yet to be set up on this earth.

But what about the familiar saying “He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword”? Does this not say that there is certain retribution to all who resort to violence for any reason? If Christ said this as a general principle, then it would be a weighty argument to support Bercot's view. But there is a major problem. Jesus never said that. The familiar saying is drawn from Matthew 26: 52, but this passage actually says: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Notice that Jesus says “draw the sword” or “take the sword” not “live by the sword.” Drawing the sword was a one-time act. In the circumstances, overwhelmingly outnumbered, Jesus told them that if they fought they would die. That was certainly true. But this is not a general principle that we can cite to dispute the right of self defense.

Some might say that the violence in the Old Testament, admittedly sanctioned by God, was mostly in the form of warfare, and not involving personal self-defense. So let us take a look at warfare, and see if Christians are obliged to take a pacifist stand and refuse to participate in the armed forces.

3. What about Christian Soldiers?

Bercot sees a moral equivalence between what is allowable for a private person and what a nation may do, under the laws of the kingdom of God. He does not explain why an earthly nation is bound to accept the laws of the kingdom of God, but assumes that it should be so. He quotes with approval a pamphlet written by Adin Ballou:8) How many does it take to annul the commandments of God, and render something lawful that He has forbidden? How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness? One man must not kill. If he does, it is murder. Two, ten, one hundred men, acting on their own responsibility, must not kill. If they do, it is still murder. But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is not murder. It is just, necessary, commendable and right. Only get enough people to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent. But how many does it take, that is the question.

Notice that he assumes some things here that we need not accept as premises. He assumes that all killing is murder. Clearly, that is not the case. The Old Testament prescribed the death penalty for numerous offenses, and this was not considered murder. So his assumption that God has forbidden all taking of human life is only that, an assumption. He also assumes that a nation may not do something that is forbidden to an individual. That, again, is a mere assumption. We need not accept any of these things as blindingly obvious. Rather, we need to hear convincing arguments as to why these things are true.

However, for the purpose of argument, let us accept that there is a linkage between corporate behavior of a nation and private behavior, when the morality of violence is being discussed. Something intrinsically immoral cannot be sanctified by the number of participants. On the other hand, something moral for a number of participants must still remain moral if the number involved drops to a single individual. This will be the starting point for our discussion. If it can be shown that God allows corporate self-defense, then that would be a valid argument supporting the right of private self-defense or defense of another innocent person.

Corporate violence is recorded in Genesis 14, where Abraham attacks four kings to rescue his relative, Lot. Abraham mobilized 318 men for violent conflict, defeated the four kings, saved Lot, and took the enemy goods. When he returned, he was met by Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God. Abraham gave a tithe of his spoils of battle. Melchizedek responded in verses 19-20: ” Blessed be Abraham of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” God not only sanctioned the war, but also was the source of victory.

More corporate violence, condoned by God, can be found in God's dealing with the theocracy of Israel, all through the period of Moses, Joshua, the Judges, and the period of the Monarchy. Violence included wars of extermination, civil wars, defensive wars, and aggressive wars. Even a cursory look at the Scriptures makes the point that God has often condoned corporate violence, to include the killing of human beings. We even see that pagan nations, in conducting their wars, were actually fulfilling the purposes of God (Daniel 1: 1-2).

Bercot attempts to show, however, that this all changed when Christ ushered in the kingdom of God. He hangs his hat on Jesus' famous teaching about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” quoted above. He says that this does not concern private behavior at all but judicial decisions.9) Bercot, somewhat confusedly, says that Jesus repealed the law, sometimes called lex talionis, which calls for punishment proportional to the offense of the wrongdoer. But could that possibly be true?

For one thing, if Jesus abolished proportional punishment, what did He replace it with? Punishment without any proportion? No punishment for wrongdoing at all?10) What? Secondly, what about the clear statement of Jesus that He did not abolish any part of the law? He said as much in Matthew 5:18, where He said: “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jesus said He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.

Secondly, Jesus affirmed the right of magistrates to judge on many occasions. He seemed to make their role stronger, if anything. He even said that verbal insults could be judged by a magistrate in Matthew 5:22. He affirmed the magistrates' authority in Matthew 5: 25. Also see Luke 12:58. But perhaps Bercot means Jesus fulfilled that part of the law and therefore it no longer applies today, even though it will not be completely abolished until the end of the age. But it is hard to see how Jesus' ministry of reconciliation and His role of sin-bearer and perfect sacrifice can affect how cases would be judged and earthly punishment decided. Truly, His once-for-all sacrifice means that the very purpose of the sacrificial system has been fulfilled and is no longer needed. But judgment of criminals has nothing to do with the eternal consequences of their sin, only their earthly punishment and repayment for wrongs inflicted.

Bercot has it all wrong. The principle of proportional punishment is as valid today as it ever was. Jesus' point was something quite different. Christians should be known as people who do not insist on receiving full compensation for wrongs against us. We are to be merciful, just as God is merciful. So wrongdoers still can be punished. even in the current age. But is there any evidence in the New Testament to prove that this is true?

One passage clearly upholding the continuing duty to try and punish wrongdoers is Romans 13: 4-7 which says:

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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Notice particularly the reference to the “sword.” This symbolizes the magistrates' responsibility to punish wrongdoers, up to and including the death penalty. There is no comfort here for those that would abolish capital punishment! This verse does not even limit the sword to cases of murder, as in Genesis 9: 6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” So we should pray that Bercot is wrong, and that Jesus did not abolish the principle of proportional punishment. Otherwise, these verses in Romans leave open the possibility of the death sentence for stealing a loaf of bread! Also see Hebrews 10: 28-29 for a favorable reference to the death penalty.

But this is not all. Paul upheld the right of magistrates to try cases and impose the death penalty in Acts 25: 11, saying: “If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” These scriptures do underscore that an accused person has the right to a fair trial, but Bercot's idea that punishment, to include the death penalty, is somehow abolished in the present age is again shown to be in error.

Finally, the Scriptures ( 1 Timothy 1: 8-10) say in unambiguous terms that the law is good (provided it is used legitimately), and it is meant for the lawless, rebellious, ungodly, sinful, unholy and irreverent people. A list of offenses that deserve punishment are given, to illustrate the point. Nothing is said here that the law of proportional punishment has been abolished. Some, however, might say that verses such as Hebrews 10: 30, where God says, “vengeance is mine, I will repay,” undercut the grounds for human justice. Taken in one sense, it does sound as if in the New Covenant, we should not punish criminals. But this verse is actually quoting from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32: 35). God's promise to take vengeance certainly did not preclude trials, courts, judges, and human justice in the Old Testament era, so it is hard to how this verse overturned these things in our day. We must say that we Christians should not be motivated by desires for vengeance when we involve ourselves in these matters. Vengeance should be left to God. Punishment that is appropriate to the crime as a deterrence to evil is not precluded by Hebrews 10: 30, no more than the same passage did in the Old Testament.

Not only is there a prohibition of personal vengeance in the Old Testament, but also an affirmation of the law of love. “`You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge but you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev.19:18). No one could successfully argue that the prohibition of vengeance and the command to love one's neighbor in the Old Testament negated the need for punishment, to even include the death penalty. Christ reaffirmed these laws, but we need not take this reaffirmation as imposition of a new pacifist order.

Finally, even Bercot admitted that earthly kingdoms have God-given authority.11) But he never attempts to define this authority or to allow it to dilute his pacifist views. However, his concession does seem to undercut his argument than an individual in God's kingdom has no right to use violence, even in defense of innocents. He said a society has no more right to use violence than an individual does. So let us turn his argument around. We have seen that a society does have the right to use violence, and that right has God's approval. So if a number of people have the right to use violence to restrain evil, what is the smallest number that can exercise this right? Logically, the right must extend down to the individual, at least in some circumstances. But is serving as a soldier one of those circumstances? Bercot is adamant that military service is absolutely forbidden to a Christian if that service involves the employment of force against others. His logic is still the same as discussed above. It is based on Christ's command to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek. He repeats the often-heard claim that there is no evidence that “any Christians served in the Roman armies prior to A. D. 170.”12) He concludes that this attitude of the early church should convince Christians today that they must shun military service.

But we have several examples from the New Testament of Roman Soldiers. Cornelius (Acts 10) was a centurion in the Roman Army, and the Scriptures do not condemn him nor do they suggest that it was imperative that he leave his post. In Matthew 8: 10, Jesus commends the faith of a non-Jewish believer, who was also a centurion. Again, He did not suggest that his profession was problematic. John the Baptist was asked by soldiers what they should do to become right with God. Rather than telling them to leave the military, or transfer to noncombat duty , John simply instructed them to act justly as they carried out their duties, and to not abuse their position of power. Of course, arguments from silence are risky, but these are crashing silences, if Jesus truly insists on pacifism, as Bercot maintains. Jesus was consistent when dealing with notorious sinners to tell them that they should sin no more. Tax collectors, adulteresses, and other notorious sinners are all told to renounce their sinful acts. But no hint is given that military service is inherently sinful or a bar to full fellowship in the kingdom of God.

Were there other Christians in military service in the Roman Army in the early church? No doubt there were some. But military service in those days presented a number of problems. Christians suffered persecution at the hands of the Empire, and by not serving in the army they avoided additional persecution. Since the army did most of the persecuting of Christians, Christians would naturally be reluctant to join since they would be expected to persecute their brethren. Additionally, many early Christians believed that the Lord's return was very near and they did not want to be found defending the very army that Christ would return to destroy. Even more troubling, military service usually required entanglement with idolatry. The principal reason for persecuting the early church was the Christians' stubborn refusal to acknowledge Rome's pagan gods. Those were sound reason for refusing military service then. None of these apply to believers in most countries today, so the early church's example cannot blindly be followed.

We have seen that the Old Testament clearly supports the rights of nations to engage in warfare. Even the story of David and Goliath supports this right. Neither Christ nor any of the apostles stated that nations no longer have that right, which amounts to the right of self defense on the national scale. In Luke 14: 31 Christ frankly acknowledged the practice of warfare between kings, but neither condemned nor condoned it. He did the same in prophecies when he said that wars would continue until the last days (Matthew 24: 5-7). Again, He neither condemns nor condones these wars.

One obvious reason for the need for war is that there is no higher authority to which a nation can appeal for redress of grievances. The relationship between states is technically that of anarchy. We can talk about customary rules of civilized behavior all we want. We can note that the United Nations has procedures to resolve conflicts and even an international court. But at the end of the day, no nation is forced to recognize any of these things, as rogue states such as North Korea demonstrate. Therefore, nations must use war or the threat of war to insure their survival.

A stronger endorsement by Christ is in John 18:36, where He informs Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” When compared with Matthew 26:53, where Christ says that He could enlist 12 legions of angels at a moment's notice, the right to fight was never disputed, but it was not the proper time and place. This is reinforced in Zechariah 14, Psalm 149, Joel 2, I Thessalonians 3:13, and Revelation 19, where Jesus Christ and His saints will return to make war on evildoers. When God's kingdom fully comes into this world, then He and His followers will fight on behalf of God's kingdom, but not before.

Finally, if military service is so totally incompatible with being a follower of Christ, why is military service used as an analogy for the Christian life? In the writings of Paul, particularly, we see this analogy used (2 Timothy 2:3-4). But we never see unrighteous ways of life used in such a way. We never see the suggestion that we should be “good whores for Christ” or “good embezzlers for Christ.” Why, if military service is so wrong, do we see “good soldiers for Christ”? At least, if serving in the army was so objectionable, we would expect some qualification or words of caution, but there are none. In fact, nowhere in the entire word of God is military service deemed to be ungodly. To the contrary, such service is deemed honorable in the great praise to the godly believers in Hebrews 11:32-34:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

None of this is to suggest that we should try to advance the kingdom of God by the sword. Jesus clearly made that unacceptable when He said that His kingdom is not of this world. This was discussed above. But our earthly responsibilities do allow the use of the sword.

Bercot reserves his most scathing sarcasm when he attacks the concept of the “just war” as propounded by Augustine and others. He takes the criteria that make killing allowable for Christians in a just war and substitutes the term “rape” for “kill.”13) When he does this, the criteria sound ridiculous. But, of course, the reason the substitution sounds ridiculous is because a man is never justified in raping a woman under any circumstances. But as we have shown above, killing is justified under some circumstances. We might agree that it is difficult to specify what is a just war. But that does not mean that the concept has no validity. We can see plenty of examples of just wars in the Old Testament, as discussed above. But Bercot's sarcastic substitution of “rape” for “kill” can be used against his point of view, also. As we have seen, his position on non-violence is mostly based on Jesus' command (Matthew 5: 38-39) to “turn the other cheek.” So let us use the same kind of substitution. Using Bercot's logic a father must tell his daughter to not resist the rapist. A pacifist father's advice to his daughter being raped: “Don't resist the wicked man, dear. Remember, Jesus said, 'Love your enemy.' If he wants to rape you once, let him rape you two or three times.” Looking at Jesus' command in this light, we see that something is wrong. Jesus was simply not talking about non-resistance to those who are intent on killing or raping. Indeed, if a girl offers no resistance to the rape, but “turns the other cheek,” is it even rape? Does not the very idea of rape demand that there is resistance in some sense of the word? Jesus was not commanding that Christian women tamely submit to rape, nor Christians passively accept violence. He was saying that we must not allow ourselves to be provoked by insults, even such a humiliating insult as a slap to the face.

We do not owe our ultimate obedience to the earthly state. Bercot makes this point several times and in this he is correct. If there is a conflict, we must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29 makes that clear: “Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings!'” But if the requirements of the state do not conflict with God's requirement, then we are to be good citizens and obey the laws of the state. Romans 13:6 says: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” This same truth is taught in Titus 3: 1 and Romans 13: 1.

4. Conclusions

We have seen that Bercot, in his book, The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down, puts forth several serious misunderstanding of the commands of Jesus Christ. This book is basically an apologetic, or justification, for the pacifist views of such denominations as Mennonites. We have attempted to demonstrate above that the pacifist position is not a command of Christ. Christians are free to use violence in self defense or to protect innocents from harm. Christians can also serve in the armed forces of their nations, or serve as magistrates or police officers. It is not necessary to condemn Mennonites for their views or refuse to recognize the principle of conscientious objection to war. Provisions should be made for those who believe that God has called them to renounce violence, even to protect their own lives or the lives of their own families. In the time of war, such people should be allowed to serve in ways that do not involve violence. Such views should be respected and tolerated, in other words. But toleration need not mean agreement. It is one thing to say that God may have called a specific individual to a life of non-violence. It is quite another to try to insist, as Bercot does, that this is a universal mandate. The weight of the scriptural evidence simply do not support him in this regard.

Society | Religion | Christianity

1) R. Lacy “A MUST Read for TODAY” September 21, 2010. http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-that-Turned-World-Upside/product-reviews/0924722177/
2) David W. Bercot, The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down. p. 16.
3) Bercot, op. cit. p. 13.
4) The two words, “preach” and “proclaim” are equivalent, being various translations of the Greek word karusso.
5) ibid. p. 70.
6) ibid. p. 81.
7) ibid. p. 65.
8) Adin Ballou, How Many Men Are Necessary to Change a Crime Into a Virtue? in Bercot, op. cit. p.78.
9) Bercot, op cit. p. 81.
10) God's word seems to rule out the ignoring of wrongdoing. Leviticus 19: 15 says: Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
11) Bercot, op cit. p. 94.
12) ibid. p. 125.
13) ibid. pp. 198ff.

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