By Jon Kauffman

Today I listened to two YouTube videos about pacifism. I found the gentleman’s arguments less than persuasive. I will call him our friend.

I shared this post with him. I hope he contacts me and straightens out my misunderstandings.

As I listened, many questions came to mind as well as many facts which to me seem to contradict his position.


Peace Dove

St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and C.S. Lewis wrote that Christian participation in violence is justifiable. They are all smarter than me and our friend has authored many books and also appears to be smarter than me.

I will disagree with all of them anyway. I have found that the more I try to put these issues in perspective to the teachings of Jesus, the greater my disagreement becomes.


Our friend made several points while discussing pacifism. Here are his points about pacifism and the military as I think I heard them. I summarized his salient points in my own words.

  1. Romans 13 demonstrates that Jesus would approve of the state using violence and would approve of the Christian killing enemies for the state.
  2. Matthew 8 demonstrates that Jesus approves of Christians joining the United States Marines and killing enemies of the United States Government.
  3. The sermon on the mount pertains only to our private lives or perhaps that of interactions between friends and neighbors of a village. The sermon on the mount does not pertain to our interactions with the military or the government of our empire whether it be Rome or the United States.
  4. If someone is chasing a woman with a knife, we must do something about it. We must not be involved in feuds.
  5. It is acceptable for a Christian to join the military and kill the enemy if the state is fighting a just war.
  6. A Christian can join the US military and easily follow any commands given them to kill their enemies, because the US only fights just wars because the President and congress are doing their jobs. However we cannot do something unjust such as kill civilians or participate in sexual immorality.



Romans 13 demonstrates that Jesus would approve of the state using violence and would approve of the Christian killing enemies for the state.

Does Romans 13 allow Christians to use violence? Romans was written in 57 or 58 AD. Paul was in prison. Nero, one of the bloodiest emperors of Rome and a great persecutor of Christians was emperor of Rome at the time. Jews considered Rome a deadly enemy. When I read Romans 13, I see no evidence that Paul thought it would be acceptable for a Christian to be a member of the Roman military. Why would Paul approve of Christians joining a military that is killing Jews and Christians? That would be like an American pastor telling his congregation to join ISIS or Boko Haram.

From the time of Alexander the Great, Jews had been rebelling against Greece and in the 30’s BC with the Romans in power, Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire. When I read Romans 13, I see Paul telling the Christians that they should not join the Jews in rebellion against the Roman Empire.

2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:2. NIV

And Paul was correct. In 70 AD, as a result of the rebellion, a million Jews died at the hands of the Romans in Jerusalem. Most Christians avoided the slaughter because they fled to the mountains as Jesus commanded them in Matthew 24:16.

In Romans 13:1, Paul says Christians should be subject to the governing authorities. The governing authorities of Rome are the Christian’s enemy. This reminds me of Assyria capturing Israel or Babylon defeating Judah as God punished his people. God used Assyria and Babylon to bring about good. This does not mean that it would have been good for an Israelite or Jew to join the Assyrian or Babylonian Armies to fight Jews!

Romans 13 also brings to mind Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV. Jesus would want everyone to follow him and live nonviolently. But evil men do evil things, including men in the military. God turns that evil to good just as he turned the evil of Assyria and Babylon to good. Just because God turns the works of evil men into good does not mean that we as Christians are to participate in that evil. Christians live in every country around the world and are members of the Kingdom of God. When we kill Christians in foreign lands, we are killing our brothers and sisters. We are fighting against our own true King.

The Jewish Christians of Rome to whom Paul was writing this letter, certainly would not have seen the Roman army as instruments of God nor would they have seen them as agents that God uses to work for the good of those who love God.

Verse 8 says we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Even if that neighbor is a member of the evil Roman military.

When Nero drug Christians off to be burned as lights for the games the Christians did not die because they ran out of swords. They died because Jesus asked them to Love their enemy and turn the other cheek.

Nero hated God and Christian and yet God made Nero his servant.

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. Romans 13:4. NIV

If we read Romans 13 in context of history and the teaching of Jesus, we actually find that Paul is saying we need to lay down our lives out of love for our enemies. We must follow the example of Jesus dying on the cross.


Matthew 8 demonstrates that Jesus approves of Christians joining the United States Marines and killing enemies of the United States Government.

Our friend tells us that in Matthew 8 when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant and marveled at his faith, Jesus was telling us that it is a noble career to be a Marine in the United States Marine Corp.

Let’s think about this logically. As I said above Rome and Roman soldiers were enemies of the Jews. Rebellious Jews on crosses were common sight at the time of Jesus. The centurion and his troops had probably helped put a few of these people on the cross. Simon the zealot and Simon Peter wanted Jesus to defeat Rome militarily. Jesus was not yet ready to preach to the gentiles.

When Jesus was healing the centurion’s servant, he was demonstrating that he loved his own enemies. Jesus was showing us how we should love our enemies. Jesus loved his enemy even before everything was in place for him to love his enemies.

I find it difficult to understand how Jesus showing love for an enemy can be construed as support for joining the Marines and killing enemies of US politicians and the state, including Christians living in foreign lands.


The sermon on the mount pertains only to our private lives or perhaps that of interactions between friends and neighbors of a village. The sermon on the mount does not pertain to our interactions with the military or the government of our empire whether it be Rome or the United States.

I am not sure how our friend can read the Sermon on the Mount and find it applies only to private matters?

In the sermon, Jesus speaks a great deal about the Kingdom of God. It is clear that we are to pray for that Kingdom and do the will of God. Our final allegiance must be to the Kingdom of God and not some temporal short-lived Empire such as Rome or the United States. Citizens of the Kingdom of God live in every country.

Matthew 5:38-48 clearly references the military. Roman soldiers had the legal right to ask anyone to carry their bag for a mile. Jesus says to carry the bag of the enemy soldier for 2 miles. Clearly if you are helping out your enemy, it is difficult to kill him. Maybe your enemy will be so grateful that he will become your friend. Perhaps because of your witness he will become a follower of Jesus.

Verse 44 says to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Who persecuted the Christians? The entity who persecuted the Christians and the Jews the most in the first 3 centuries of the church was the Roman empire. Jews would have considered other Jews their neighbors and would have quickly settled differences to deal with their enemy the Roman Empire.

This is another case where our friend has not taken into account the history and cultural context in which this story occurred.


If someone is chasing a woman with a knife, we must do something about it. We must not be involved in feuds.

What about protecting a woman? Our friend seems to have the mistaken impression that the use of violence is the only option when people are committing unjust and evil acts.

One day I was walking home from work. About ½ a block away I noticed a man beating a much weaker man. I began staring at them and walking more quickly straight towards them. The man beating the other turned and quickly walked away.

I could see that the man was far quicker and a better fighter than I could be. Yet he went away. Sometimes men doing evil are cowards.

If we are not afraid to be hurt or die, usually many other opportunities present themselves to nonviolently intervene in violent situations.

Jesus died to save us and did not promise safety for us or our families if we follow him. In fact, he said we are to take up our cross and follow him. Following Jesus might mean we tackle a man with a deadly weapon and using no deadly violence risk our own lives to protect a woman. We might be successful, but we might not be successful. Sometimes the man who shoots first and asks questions later is successful for the short run. Sometimes violence escalates into more violence and failure in the future.

If we assume the only way to protect this woman is to kill the attacking man, we may risk starting a family feud. Then each side of feud will feel justified in killing people they are feuding with.

Perhaps we don’t know the whole story. Maybe the woman is a murderer. Perhaps the man is chasing with a knife the murderer of his wife and 3 small children. When we shoot him, perhaps we are cutting his name off the face of the earth forever.

I agree with our friend that we must not be involved in feuds, but I think he is contradictory because the very action he is proposing could lead to a feud. This is also the type of behavior that causes feuds leading to war between countries.

If we use violence, we continue the cycle of violence. Jesus broke the cycle of violence when he died. The only way wars and feuds can end is if Christians nonviolently break the cycle of violence.

If we use violence we die by violence. If we live by the sword we die by the sword.

Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. By friends he meant brothers and sisters in Christ.


It is acceptable for a Christian to join the military and kill the enemy if the state is fighting a just war.

Our friend is discussing Romans 13 again. As I mention in Point One, our friend has taken Romans 13 out of context.


A Christian can join the US military and easily follow any commands given them to kill their enemies, because the US only fights just wars because the President and congress are doing their jobs. However we cannot do something unjust such as kill civilians or participate in sexual immorality.

Our friend’s sixth point has so many errors I hardly know where to begin. Many in government are seeking power and money. Their goal is re-election and they are willing to make oil companies and weapon manufacturers happy in order to achieve this goal.

War is a Racket, by General Smedley D. Butler

Many of those in power have no interest in following the teachings of Jesus or even ensuring that the United States holds to just war principals. I am sure a majority of politicians do a good job holding to their own principals and are very good at keeping their donors happy.

Andrew Jackson knew in advance of plans to drive out the Indians from their homes to steal their land. He bought up the rights to many acres of land before the wars and sold for exorbitant prices to settlers after the wars.

Now we have the BIA (Bossing Indians Around) controlling the interests of native Americans for the United States Government. The New Trail of Tears, How Washington is Destroying American Indians, Encounter Books, 2016. By Naomi Schaefer Riley.

The US government has used the military to fight the Banana Wars to protect American Banana companies and keep low-paid banana workers in line.

The United States used drones to kill “terrorists” in Pakistan from 2004 to 2018. Pakistan is considered our friend. Often these drone bombings did not kill anyone who was a military threat to the US, but sometimes the bombs slaughtered innocent men, women, and children.

Who is the terrorist here? How does the US have the right to kill people without trial or without properly identifying who they are? Would Jesus approve? I would argue that the US President and Congress willingly fight illegal and unjust wars.

The Lawfulness Of Us Drone Strikes In Pakistan: An International Perspective By Robert Donaldson

And What About Hitler?

In 1918 after the peace treaty to end World War I, Congress refused to allow the United States to sell wheat to starving Germany. Nearly a million Germans died of starvation, leading to the election of Hitler and World War II. Obviously Congress doesn’t always do the right thing.

They did not know it then, but if in 1918 Congress had followed Just War principals they could have prevented World War II. If they had followed the teachings of Jesus to feed the hungry, they could have prevented the death of 800,000 plus Germans and prevented World War II.

If a person believes that the United States follows Just War principals and that Christians can join the military because the Congress and President are doing their jobs to ensure Just War, they have not been reading their American History.

I could give many, many more examples.

If we use the Just War definition of Thomas Aquinas or the Catholic Catechism to define just war, I think it can be easily argued that the United States has never fought a just war.

And not only in the United States has the church caused war by refusing to follow the teaching of Jesus.

Christian Tutsis fought Christian Hutus and 800,000 were slaughtered in Rwanda. What if the church had taught them the reconciliation and the nonviolence of Jesus instead of Just War theology?

Our friend says we cannot kill civilians. If you think some acts of killing are just and others are not, I’m not sure how you know the difference in the foxhole? Or what if that civilian walking towards you might have a bomb tied to her chest or maybe not? Would Jesus approve of you killing her before she maybe kills you?

Romans 10:9,10 says: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” NIV

If Jesus is Lord – that is President, King, Prime minister and we declare that our earthly leader can command us to do something that is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, who is really our Lord?


I would argue that if we claim to be Christians, our final authority should be Jesus Christ.  Jesus wants us to voluntarily follow his teaching.

Some argue that St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and other theologians and writers can change the teaching of Jesus to meet the needs of our culture. These people would argue for a Just War theology.

Others feel that just war theology is too restrictive and that a person’s country can fight whenever the countries leadership feels it is necessary. It is possible that these Christians may say we must obey to the leaders of our country to the point of killing our brothers and sisters in Christ even if our leaders are not Christian and do not follow a just war politics or the follow the teachings of Jesus.

If anyone claims that someone other than Jesus has the final authority as a guide for Christian living, I must agree to disagree.


If a Christian is a man of violence, does that mean he cannot be saved? Certainly he can be saved. King David was a very violent man. He killed many enemies. Before King Saul, Israel depended on God for defense and did not possess great military knowledge or a standing army.

King David hired mercenaries for foreign lands to defeat his enemies and train his troops. It was easy for David to kill. He killed Bathsheba’s husband. But David and Israel suffered greatly because of the consequences of David’s violence. David could not build the temple. Absalom was killed.

And yet David was called a man after God’s own heart.


When I read the New Testament, I find zero statements positively allowing military service by a Christian. I find many statements suggesting we must love our enemies. When I read writings of the early Christians for the first 300 years, I find zero quotes demonstrating that Christian leaders approved of violence. I find many quotes where Christians speak against violence and service in the military.

Edited: 10/16/2021

Edited: 6/25/2022

Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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Sorry, But I Cannot Contribute

by Jon Kauffman

Recently I received a letter from a Christian radio station requesting money. I consider the radio station and it’s hosts to be rather hyper-patriotic. Because they are so strongly pro-military, I seldom listen to them. I have never heard them defend their position using the teaching of Jesus. I have never heard a mention that there are other views on this subject.

Peace Dove

I said:

Dear Mr. ….

I am sorry I cannot in good conscience contribute. I like some of the programs on your radio station, but your radio station holds a pro-military position.


1) Jesus changed the Law of Moses when he said “Love your enemy” and “Turn the other check.” Matthew 5:38-45.

‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is a quote from Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20.

Note from the NET Bible: The phrase “hate your enemy” does not occur explicitly in the OT, but was commonly inferred from passages like Deuteronomy 7:2; 30:7; Psalm 26:5; Psalm 139:21-22.

2) Moses and the prophets did not fully understand God therefore we cannot use Old Testament examples of violence to justify our own violence.

3) Only Jesus fully understands God. Only Jesus has the authority to change the teaching of Moses.

4) There is not one word in the NT or written by the early church fathers prior to the 4th century that says it is acceptable for Christians to participate in killing their enemies.

5) Jesus demonstrated how love for enemies looks in his Kingdom in this present age. As his enemies killed him, Jesus said,”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. Jesus had the power to destroy Rome.

6) St. Augustine and other church leaders such as Martin Luther do not have the authority to change the teaching of Jesus.

7) As followers of Jesus we must follow his teaching and not the teaching of a government-oriented church. Jesus is the final authority.

8) See why Romans 13, Ephesians 6, Matthew 8 and many other NT passage cannot be used to justify violence by Christians: Reasons Some Christians say they can kill their enemies. 

Jon Kauffman

Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

By Jon Kauffman

I have been asking Christians why they feel it’s acceptable for Christians to use violence for 40 years. Listed below are reasons I have been hearing. I have provided a link to my response. I am planning to post responses to more of the reasons.

I think the best argument I have heard is “Protecting your family when violent people come.” (See reason 1 below.) But even in this case an alternative to the Christian using violence almost always occurs.

Notice however, that when we start looking for reasons to defend a pacifist position using the teachings of Jesus or the examples of Jesus, Paul, Peter & James, we can easily find one argument after another. For example, in Matthew 5: 8-13, Jesus shows us how to treat an enemy by healing the centurions servant. (See reason 13 below)

Arguments people have given me to suggest that it is acceptable for Christians to us violence:

  1. Protecting your family when violent people come.
    See my response:

    Agent X, Blogger, “Intruder”.

    How Jesus Fights Wars
  2. Protecting your country when violent armies come.
    See my response:

    The Flag and Daniel.

    What About Hitler?
  3. Protecting religious freedom.
    See my response:

    Should a Christian Fight for Freedom?

    How Jesus Fights Wars.
  4. Protecting vulnerable neighbors when violent people come.
    See my response:


    Violence and Responses.
  5. They feel like they are doing the right thing.
    See my response:

    Hiroshima and Mass Murder?
  6. Some say we have the right to self-defense. Keith Giles wrote a Christian Bill of Rights. See it here: “Christian Bill of Rights.” Pastor Giles did not include self-defense and I agree.
  7. Soldiers have good medical benefits. Should a Christian put medical benefits as a higher priority than following the teachings of Jesus?
  8. Soldiers have good educational opportunities. Should a Christian put education as a higher priority than following the teachings of Jesus?
  9. The military teaches discipline. It takes great discipline to follow the teachings of Jesus. Which is a higher priority?
  10. Veterans are recognized as heroes.
    See my response:

    Why I Can’t Thank Veterans.

    What Do We Owe Veterans? Or The Last Native American
  11. Theologians such as St. Augustine and Martin Luther have justified Christian use of violence. The issue is settled and we don’t need to talk about it anymore. See my response:

    St Augustine’s Mistake.

    Greatest Heresy of All Time? Just War Doctrine?

    Does Just War Exist?

    The Authority We Follow
  12. Paul used the Armor of God (Military references) as a metaphor for Christian spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-17. Because Paul referenced military equipment, that means he approved of Christians participating in military violence.
    See my response:

    The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17
  13. Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant and did not ask him to leave the military. Matthew 8:5-13.
    See my response:

    Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13

  14. Romans 13 teaches that Christians are to be subject to the state.
    See my response:

    Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?

    Can Christians Join the US Military?

    Submission to Governing Authorities: A Study of Romans 13:1-7 by Matthew G. Neufeld

  15. John the Baptist gave the soldiers advice and did not ask them to leave the military.
    See my response:

    Does John the Baptist Say Christians may Use Violence?
  16. Christian’s must use violence to protect their constituents when they become involved in politics.
    See my response:

    Jesus’ Kingdom, The Kingdom of God

    Why I Won’t be Voting in 2020.
  17. Christ himself said, If a man does not own a sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36. I follow Micheal Snow’s blog. Michael has written an excellent response to this argument.

    Two Swords: Enough. By Michael Snow.

    “No More of This!” (Why Jesus Armed and disarmed Peter) by Brian Zahnd.
  18. The sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” should read, “Thou shalt not murder”. If you are killing at the request of the state, it is not murder.
    See my response:

    Hiroshima and Mass Murder

    Who is God? Thou Shalt Not Kill
  19. God commanded Israel to war against the inhabitants of the Promised Land. See my response:

    Seven Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence

Does 2 Kings 9 Justify Christian Violence?

Mary, Warrior of God.

Does Isaiah 2:3-4 Teach Christian Non-Violence?

God Is Not Violent: Korah’s Rebellion

Jason Potterfield discusses Violence in the Old Testament:

New Series: Violence In The Old Testament by Jason Potterfield
Violence In The Old Testament. Part 2: The Problem by Jason Potterfield
Violence In The Old Testament Part 3: Filter The Bible Through Jesus by Jason Potterfield

Most churches and their leaders support the Christian use of violence.
See my response:

St. Augustine’s Mistake

Pacifism is not safe and secure. Pacifists must depend on non-pacifists to defend them physically.
See my response:

“Neutering Male Courage.”

1 Peter 2:13-17 justifies Christian military service.
See my response:

Does 1 Peter 2:13-17 Justify Christian Violence?

2 Timothy 2: 3 & 4 justifies Christian military service.
See my response:

Does 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 Justify Christian Military Service

Evidence of Pacifism in Early church is too fragmentary to know what they thought.
See my Response:

Does Isaiah 2:3-4 Teach Christian Non-Violence?


“Pacifism is a satanic belief system designed to hurt innocent people and neuter male courage.”
See my response:

“Neutering Male Courage.”

How Jesus Fights Wars.

“But for me,the strongest evidence that Christians can join the military in good conscience is God’s command to protect the innocent.”
See my response:

Brandon Adams, Veteran, Teacher

If Christians did not fight as soldiers, the whole world would fall apart. Christianity would be destroyed and civilization would end.

To prevent future terrorist attacks. Terrorists would destroy our country if Christians did not fight.
See my response:

“Neutering Male Courage.”

It is foolish for Christians to depend on evil people for protection.
See my response:

Jesus is violent in the book of Revelation and uses violence to bring justice. If Jesus is violent we also can be violent.
See my response:

Does Revelation 19 Justify Violence by Christians?

See how Jesus fights: “Holy War.” video by Greg Boyd

Christians can fight in any war. The war does not need to be just. The only requirement is that the Christian must fight heroically.

Can Christians Join the US Military?

Ryan Callahan has written one of the best defenses for Christian violence than I have heard or read over the last 40 years of asking. Ryan said, “Good to meet you Jon. I agree that as followers of Jesus we should be men of peace. The Bible is also clear in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love always protects. Defending your family is not a matter of violence. It is a matter of love.” Closely related is Phil Robinson’s defense of Christian violence.
See my Response:

See the very interesting conversation between Ryan and Agent X.

Ryan Callahan, Author, Blogger and Everyday Minister

My friend, Mark Netum told me a story that he felt demonstrated the need of Christians to fight.

Mark Nettum, Veteran, Retired. Does Matthew 13:24-29 Teach Nonviolence?

“I have no problem with people Christian or otherwise for that matter choosing not to defend themselves ( particularly if doing so would involve violence) I do have an issue with people who refuse to defend OTHER people and/or tell people that it is wrong to use their legal right to self defense.” I found this quote on Christian Forums.

See my Response:

Can Christians Join the US Military?


Philippians 2:25 and 2 Timothy 2:3,4 clearly justify serving as a soldier.
See my response:

Do Philippians 2:25 and 2 Timothy 2:3,4 Justify Violence by Christians?

In Numbers 32, two tribes of Israel wanted to stay in Gilead and discontinue fighting. Moses spoke severely to them therefor we also should fight in war.

One friend said, “Jesus often saves people in the military so it must be alright to work in the military.” Jesus saves people who once were prostitutes and thieves. That does not indicate that is acceptable for people to remain prostitutes and thieves.

What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.

A Few New Testament References That Support A Nonviolent Position:

What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dirk-willem-2.jpg
In the Sixteenth Century at least 1500 Anabaptists were tortured and killed because they insisted on living by the teachings of Jesus. An Anabaptist, Dirk Willem was imprisoned to be killed.

Dirk escaped prison and was fleeing for his life. He crossed a pond covered by a thin layer of ice. His pursuer fell through the ice. Dirk turned back and saved his enemy from drowning. The man he saved, grabbed him and held him for arrest. On May 16, 1569, Dirk Willem was executed by fire.

I absolutely agree with you that war is not compatible with Christian belief. It’s the reason I long ago ceased to call myself a Christian. I believe that there are circumstances in which war is justified and would cite the activity of Adolf Hitler and his followers. Had the rest of the world permitted the Nazi’s to continue with their programme, which included unspeakable violence against large numbers of our fellow humans based on their ethnicity/religious beliefs/failure to meet a supposed ideal of physical and mental perfection, neither you nor I would be alive today. Frank Parker

I find Frank’s honesty refreshing. I remain a Christian and believe it is wrong for Christians to participate in war. Why should we leave the Christian faith if most Christians do not follow that faith?

Many times the use of violence seems logical and right, but Jesus taught non-violence and gave us the example of a life and death of non-violence. Nowhere in the teaching of Jesus is violence taught as an acceptable alternative to non-violence.

Jesus as the Son of God has the right to ask his followers to live lives of non-violence if that is what he wants to do.

40 years and I have not found any reasons that Christians use to justify violence, that I felt is convincing.

When We Disagree.

Contact me: jonkauffman01@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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Edited 10/31/2021.

Edited 4/23/2022.

St Augustine’s Mistake

By Jon Kauffman

Many, who support Christian use of violence, say that they base their position on the teaching of St. Augustine. Augustine based his teaching about war on the teachings of Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero.

After Constantine came to power in 306 AD the 300 Bishops in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called Christians to leave the military and this seems to be the official view of the Roman church at that time.

“Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years.” 
Excerpt from Cannon 12 of the Council of Nicaea.

Ambrose was the first Christian to write about just war. Ambrose was a highly loved and respected Roman Governor stationed in Milan and by popular demand became Bishop of Milan in 374 AD. Ambrose was a masterful politician and was able to overcome highly volatile situations using peaceful negotiation.

When Ambrose wrote about just war he was upsetting 350 years of Church teaching.

Did Ambrose write about just war because he realized that if Christians were to fully leverage their political positions then they needed the ability to ask young Christian men to slaughter enemies of the state at the state’s request?

With Ambrose did the Church begin to succumb to the third temptation of Jesus?

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:8-10 NIV

Ambrose was St. Augustine’s Bishop. Did St. Augustine write justifying war to bolster the ruling classes ability to maintain the status quo by allowing Christians to fight? Rome was in decline. St Augustine was arguing to give justification to leaders sending their constituents into battle. Did St Augustine write about just war because so many people were becoming Christian and the number of people available for battle was dwindling?

St. Augustine was teaching against the position of the Council of Nicaea. Should we expect him to have strong arguments demonstrating how the church teaching was counter to the teaching of Jesus? What did Augustine teach?

St. Augustine used Roman’s 13 to justify his position. As I have explained in a different blog post, Romans 13 does not justify violence on the part of Christians, but quite the opposite. (1) St. Augustine really did not bring his position back to the teaching of Jesus.

St. Augustine also tried to use the Old Testament to justify his position that Christians could join the military and follow Jesus. He tried to synthesize the love of Jesus with violence of God in the Old Testament.

Origen saw a problem with all that Old Testament violence.

If we agree with Origen that it is doubtful that a loving God would slaughter infants, we must look for alternative explanations of Old Testament violence attributed to God. If we follow Origen’s example we must remember that the Bible is infallible and we must find an explanation that reveals Jesus and God as loving us. We must read the story and interpret it as Jesus would interpret that story. See “God is not Violent, Korah’s Rebellion.” (2)

St. Augustine’s criteria for Just War included Just Authority, Just Cause, Right Intention, and Last Resort.

Does a Just Authority exist? If an authority contradicts the teaching of Jesus can it be just? Jesus refused to resist and died on the cross and said: “Take up your cross and follow me.” How can a Christian find greater authority than Jesus? If Jesus is the final authority on how we should live, and if we follow him, and if Jesus does not authorize Just War, then does a “Just Authority” exist who has the right to ask Christians to fight. If world leaders do not have Just Authority, Augustine’s other points – Just Cause and Right Intention are mute.

Does Just Cause exist? True justice replaces what was lost and brings reconciliation of the wronged party with the one who did the harm. Only Jesus can bring true justice. Someday he will he wipe away every tear. How can a government who is more interested in retaining power than following Jesus hope to determine Just Cause?

Is “Right Intention” a justifiable reason? I’m sure Winston Churchill thought he had right intention when he pushed for war against Germany prior to World War I. However had peaceful negotiations taken place instead, World War II and perhaps the Cold War with USSR could have been prevented. Our best intentions often end in disaster when we make mistakes. (3) If we are working with a government and military who are not following Jesus and if the foreign policy is formed by people who are not following Jesus, how likely is it that Right Intention in war will bring about results that follow the intentions of Jesus?

Is Last Resort a justifiable reason? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Jesus holds the future, we can wait. We do not know when the last resort occurs.

Pax Romana lasted from the time of Jesus until 200 AD. Was this a result of praying Christians or brutal tactics of a brutal Roman government? 30 years after Christians began openly entering the military in 170 AD, Pax Romana ended. A few years after Augustine as theologians continued to justify Christian participation in the military Rome fell apart. Are the two circumstances related?

Do St. Augustine’s teachings on war conform to the teaching of Jesus? I have been unable to find anything that legitimately allows Christians to participate in violence in the teachings of Jesus. Many of Jesus’ teaching can be used to demonstrate that violence is unacceptable for a Christian.

St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cicero and Plato were all smarter than I am. They have been admired for centuries. Many followers of Jesus have agreed with their teachings. That certainly gives their teaching respectability.  But do the teachings of Augustine, Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero have the authority to trump the teaching of Jesus?

Cicero said, “In times of War, the law falls silent.”

Compare Cicero to Jesus:

Jesus said, “18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18.

Both of these statements are true. If Jesus is suggesting that we are responsible for our actions when we break God’s law and if Cicero is suggesting that in war we will ignore the law to participate, how can such a situation contribute to a “Just War”? Should we participate in “Just War” if we must reject the teachings of Jesus to do so?

In 408 AD Augustine wrote, “The earlier time of that king represented the former age of emperors who did not believe in Christ, at whose hands the Christians suffered because of the wicked; but the later time of that king represented the age of the successors to the imperial throne, now believing in Christ, at whose hands the wicked suffer because of the Christians.” Augustine, Letter 93, Chapter 3, Vs 9, 408 AD. To Vincentius.

I find little similarity between Jesus and his command to love our enemies and Augustine’s statement in Letter 93.

Because of Augustine’s mistake in giving Christian’s “justification” to fight, maim and kill, he set the world up for constant war.

In the Magnificat in Luke 1, Mary says, “51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 2 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

When the US military bombed villages in Laos because the Laotians would not send their 13-year-old sons to fight against North Vietnam, were the US pilots fighting for the “rulers on their thrones” or the “humble”?

Where do we fit in when we join the US military? Where do we fit in when we sit in our fancy homes and enjoy the cheap oil brought about partly by US foreign policy and military action in the Middle East or enjoy cheap bananas and cheap coffee brought to us by the Central American poor, kept cheap partly by our foreign policy and military action?

Will we be the rich that he has sent away empty?

When we support American soldiers killing defenseless women and children with drones are we like the Rich Ruler?

The Rich Ruler came to Jesus seeking to inherit eternal life. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21.

Do we have the talent to be like a camel squeezing through the eye of the needle? If we are fighting to increase and protect our material wealth and are willing to kill the weak and downtrodden to do so, are we endangering our souls?

If St Augustine was intending to help the Church and political rulers retain political power, he was successful.

Was St Augustine successful in calling people to build the Kingdom of God by calling them to fight with violence? Refusing to fight and and as result dying like sheep worked very well for Christians to build the Kingdom of God during the first 3 centuries. If the Church had continued to be non-violent, perhaps the church would have been much more successful in building the Kingdom of God in the following centuries?

Some Christians do not even limit their wars to the Just Wars described by Augustine. These Christians blindly follow their political leaders and indiscriminately kill in any war the state desires to wage.

(1) Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?

2) God Is Not Violent: Korah’s Rebellion

3) What About Hitler.

Reasons why other Christians participate in violence: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

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