Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Rubel Shelly’s Response to Lee Camp (Jan-Feb 2002)

Filed under: — @ 1:32 pm and

by Rubel Shelly
January – February, 2002
(responding to Pacifism: The Case for Christian Non-Violence)

Dr. Lee Camp’s articulation of a Christian case for pacifism is as clear and compelling as I could imagine. Yet I respectfully disagree.

First, Christian love is not always passive. I agree with Lee that Jesus is neither a “utopian fool” nor “unrealistic.” He is our perfect example of kingdom lifestyle. But it was Jesus who protested rather than passively submit to violence (John 18:22-23). His servant and apostle lived by love in the Roman Empire and availed himself of the protection of men prepared to use deadly force (cf. Acts 23:16ff).

Love for an enemy is not absolute so that it surpasses, say, love for my father. I was present when a (drunken?) man attacked my father. Without hating or sinning against him, I used physical violence to intervene and protect my father. Police officers and military personnel may not use deadly force out of wicked motives without sinning, but they may use it to defend innocent persons. In doing so, they are God’s servants.

Second, although heavenly citizenship takes priority, duties within a civil government may also be exercised whenever they do not conflict. We may not “make converts” with force of arms, but we should protect the innocent and establish justice with force – when necessary as a last-resort strategy. Even as force is used, we show love by caring for the murderer’s family (as well as his victims) and for civilians who are innocent victims of war.

To allow evil to go unchallenged is itself evil. Kindness and non-violence are our first responses, knowing that God will vindicate the righteous at the resurrection. When kindness and non-violence are being presumed upon by murderers, God authorizes the immediate response of force through human governments “to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.”
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Rubel Shelly

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