Introduction from Waging Peace: A study in Biblical Pacifism
By John Lamoreau and Ralph Beebe*
BIBLICAL PACIFISM rests on three foundational truths: (1) that God created and His creation is good; (2) that Christ’s redemption of fallen humanity is the central point in history and opened an age when humans were empowered and expected to be witnesses of His love; and (3) that in His resurrection Christ has already won the final victory over sin.
God made humanity to be steward over a world with abundant resources that, if used as intended, would be ample for the earth’s inhabitants. But humankind sinned and became exploiter and desecrater of the creation. The long-range result of this tragic fall is a world of sinful selfishness, pollution, jealousy, hatred, and war.
From the foundation of the world, however, God had a plan. “In the fullness of time” Jesus Christ, who was both human and divine, bore the weight of the world’s sin in a substitutionary atonement. God’s mysterious method was to sacrifice His own Son to redeem any who would accept and become His followers. Christ died that human beings might be reconciled to God and to His human and natural creation.
Redemption comes through faith-“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)-but Christ also expects chang-ed behavior. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” He noted. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44) Here, indeed, was a new ethic. After His ascension, Christ’s followers boldly proclaimed the same message. Paul the apostle was eloquent: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
The early church was not without imperfections. Yet so devoted to Christ and His message were the Christians that for near-ly 300 years they uniformly refused to fight, either for their country, in rebellion against it, or in their own self-defense. Steadfastly refusing to be conformed to this world, they lived transformed lives.’
Gradually, however, Christians submitted to the pressure to accommodate themselves to the world around them. The critical moment came in A.D. 312 when the Emperor Constantine accepted a watered-down version of Christianity that required no sacrifice and no obedience-one that, unbelievably, reversed Christ’s teachings and made His cross the banner for military conquest. Christianity became an accepted religion and later the only legal religion in the empire. Having once been persecuted, Christians became the persecutors; whereas before A.D. 173 no Christians were in the army, by A.D. 417 the Roman military would accept only Christians.2
This development severely blunted the forward thrust of Chris-tianity. The testimony that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) gave way to the belief that killing was justifiable if done by the state’s military to protect its citizens’ interests. Years later, in the medieval crusades, an apostate church led European nations into “holy war” against the infidel. “Our men rode in the blood of the Saracens up to the knees of the horses,” triumphantly proclaim-ed one follower of the cross and the flag.3
Even today, many Christians feel killing is justified under some circumstances. Yet there is a corresponding resurgence of concern that Christians return to the ethic provided by Christ-that of living out in the world His message of love and peace.
What, then, of the future? Christians know the joyous end of the story-an eternity of peace with Jesus, who has already won the victory over sin and death. But meanwhile, many feel a deep com-mitment to try to live as Christ taught, making His kingdom on earth a foretaste of heaven. They feel compelled to be leaven to the world around, calling other Christians to be accountable to Christ.
This booklet is dedicated to helping Christ’s church regain a vi-sion of its true message-that of love and peace, as He commanded His followers. It is hoped that this work might assist Christians to be evangelists for Christ, witnesses of the power of Pentecost, which He promised would be the mark of His disciples-the power to love each other, to be good stewards of His creation, and to wage peace in His name. That Christ, if truly lifted up, will draw all men unto Him.
- Roland H. Bainton, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1960) pp. 66-84; Alan Kreider and John H. Yoder, “Christians and War,” in Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), p. 25; Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), p. 242; Paul Ramsey, War and the Christian Con-science (Durham: Duke University Press, 1961), p. xv; Guy Franklin Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1953), pp. 65-70; C. J. Cadoux, The Early Christian Attitude to War (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1917) p 17.
- Bainton, p. 88
- Daimbert, Archbishop of Pisa, 1099, quoted in Stanley I. Stuber, How We Got Our Denominations (New York: Association Press, 1951), p. 95.
Used by permission. Waging Peace is available for $3.95 from Barclay Press at www.barclaypress.com or by phone at 800-962-4014.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:Peace Theology and Biblical Tradition
- : Including Early Christianity and Contemporary issues (
- “From the Tower of Babel to the Peace of Jesus Christ”
- “Christological, Ecclesiological and Missiological Foundations of Peacemaking”
- “Resistance, Reproof and Love for Enemies in Matthew’s Narrative”
- “Conflict Resolution and Human Reconciliation in the Early Church”
- ). A series of papers presented to the World Council of Churches including:
Ferguson, John, The Politics of Love: The New Testament and Nonviolent Revolution. Nyack, NY, Fellowship Publications, 1979 (Takes a hard look into some of the passages often used as arguments for war, and examines the early church.)
McSorley, Richard, New Testament Basis of Peacemaking. Washington D.C., Center for Peace Studies, 1980 (Examines what the Bible teaches about peace and explores important questions regarding tough scriptural passages. A rich source of information about where Christ and the early Church stood on the subject of peacemaking.)
Lind, Millard, Yahweh is a Warrior, Herald Press; 1980 ISBN: 0836112334 (Study of OT war passages).
Eller, Vernard, War and Peace from Genesis to Revelation, Herald Press; 1981 ISBN: 0836119479
Miller, Marlin & Nelson Gingerich, Barbara (eds.) The Church’s Peace Witness, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994
Wink, Walter, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination Fortress Press; 1991 ISBN: 080062646X