A Conversation for Pacifism

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 1

John Luke

I am against pacifism. I am not against peace or peacefulness or peacemaking. I am a dove, not a hawk but I am against pacifism and I will tell you why.

In my dictionary (Encarta) pacifism is defined as "the belief that (1) war and violence are morally unjustifiable and that (2) all disputes should be settled by peaceful means." (The numbers are mine.) I call these the two pillars of pacifism.

The first pillar is a) logically flawed, b) socially irresponsible and c) historically untrue.

a). It is illogical to assume that war (or anything) can NEVER be justified. We do not know what circumstances will occur in the future so we cannot say that any rule or element of morality will ALWAYS be valid. There may come a time when today's most abhorrent action becomes a necessity.

b). One of the primary duties of any society is to protect itself from attacks both external and internal. To refuse to contribute to the defence of one's own society, especially when called on to do so, is socially irresponsible.

c). It is patently clear that there have been many occasions throughout history when taking up arms and going to war *HAS* been justified. Who could say that the French people were not justified in rising up against their oppressive regime? Who will tell the Americans that they should not have fought free from their colonial masters? Are we to belive that Britain should not have stood up to Nazi Germany?

In short, the first pillar of pacifism is foolish, irresponsible and blinkered.

The second pillar - that all disputes be settled peacefully - is something that all reasonable people subscribe to. In the real world, however, not all disputes have an acceptable peaceful solution or the parties to the dispute may not be equally reasonable. Reasonable behaviour may eventually run out of steam; this is where coercion in some form begins.

It MUST be resisted. If it were not then the first party to exceed the bounds of reasonable behaviour would win the dispute everytime. It would be accepting that "Might is Right". Is that reasonable? Is it just? Is it moral? Of course not!

Thus crumbleth the second pillar of pacifism.

The realist accepts that, regrettably, sometimes one has to fight for peace and bear the irony along with all the other hardships. The pacifist believes that it is sufficient to wish for peace - someone else will provide it.

I would like to know the logic and sentiment behind the opposite points of view Of course I would also like to hear from those who agree with me, in full or in part.

smiley - peacedove

John Luke

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 2

Vintermann (VnnMint's updated name)

Now, the dictionary definition will do for now...

"War and violence are morally unjustifiable"
I'll take it in reverse order. You say this is "Historically untrue". How can a statement about morality, in other words a statement about right and wrong, be "historically untrue"? Have you not read of the philosopher Hume John Luke? You can never get a "Ought to" statement from a factual statement. It just doesn't follow.

That the actions you believe must arise from this moral position will be ineffective in achieving a stated goal (say world peace) you can argue if you want. However you can't argue the moral position itself unless you explain what you think makes an action good and what makes an action bad.

You take a couple of wars that you say have been justified in your opinion. I don't say there would have been less suffering if these wars weren't fought, I can't know anything about what history might have looked like if people had acted differently. Neither can you!
We are both blind in this. "But most likely ..." you might say, but I say that humans have free will.

Imagine a nazi soldier ready to shoot you, and you have an opportunity to kill him first. There is not a 75% chance that the nazi soldier will do the wrong thing. The nazi soldier has free will like you. You therefore can't act based on your assesment of probabillity. You can't make the choice for him. You must just make your own and trust that God speaks to the nazi too.

This does not automatically cause the nazi to not kill you, even if God speaks to him too through his conscience. Remember, free will. BUT, if you don't do the thing conscience demands of you, you can't justifiably expect it from your enemy either.

Conscience is the only measure we have for right and wrong. You try to place intellect in it's place through assessing what gives least possible suffering, greater common good or whatever. But the moral value of actions is not based on how "successful" they are in producing visible results. Many a consequence of a good action (or of a bad!) may be hidden in people's hearts, or only appear in the future. Hitler was defeated, but to do this we (in the west) allied with Stalin, who ended up with a much larger body count, and who inspired even greater atrocities (I'm thinking of Cambodia).

I hope I have covered some of your other arguments here, but I can take them in order anyway (still reverse order)

"One of the primary duties of any society[...]" Here you reveal some rather anti-humanistic views. I say society is a construction of men, nothing less, nothing more! Societies don't have souls which go to heaven or hell. They exist for US, not the other way around. It is we, individuals, who have conscience and free will. To see the state, the race or whatever as "over-individuals" we must submit to... well, I hope you see why I disagree!

Then to your logic argument. First, what I said about Hume.
But let's look at it from another angle, perhaps easier to understand since this term is poular today: values.
Behind every choice we make there lies values (or at least this is one way of seeing it). When you choose to shoot the nazi in my prevoius example you valued something over the value "It's wrong to kill". There are many values, many things a man can choose as the important ones. But when you say "There comes a time when today's most abhorrent action becomes a necessity", you are indirectly saying: "whatever I value the most, there's something I value more". YOU are the illogical one my friend!

Alas it's the same kind of argument used by Bush to defend those secret war tribunal things. ("We will do whatever necessary." Necessary for what, mr Bush? Obvously not defending the truth, human rights etc, since he is betraying those ideals with the means. Survival? This friend of Billy Graham's should perhaps read again what happens to those who would keep their lives!)

I don't comment on your second pillar, I think I have said what needs to be said above. Just one thing that annoys me. You say being pacifist means accepting that "Might is right". How you manage this I don't get, but obviously there are times you want to rely on might to achieve "right". What happens when the nazis are strongest, then, John Luke? I aim for the middle of the target. I won't go for justice only the times my side happens to be the stronger! Especially not when strength can be bought with immorality.
In a battle where power (of this world) is the issue the one who wins is the one willing to do anything to get most power. How can you hope for any kind of justice if you "sometimes" rely on coercive force to get the world the way it should be?

Given these circumstances, the alternatives to coercive force don't really need to prove themselves, because it's obvious that they are all we have.

(If you are Christian, remember who Jesus calls "The prince of this world")

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 3


I am a Christian who, while not actually a pacifist by the Encarta definition, has strong pacifist tendencies.

I cannot Biblically support pure pacifism on the following grounds :

1) the Sixth Commandment ("thou shalt not kill") does not outlaw war. While it would, if universally obeyed, certainly end
war, the authority of the law itself is not the categorical imperative, but the fact that it is given by the Creator Himself. And this same Creator authorizes, nay sometimes COMMANDS warfare, and capital punishment. Some have claimed that this commandment is better rendered "thou shalt not murder"- referring to UNAUTHORIZED killing for specious reasons.

2) It is certainly true that Jesus preached peace, and urged non-violence upon his own followers. However he never condemned warfare or capital punishment as such. The explanation appears to be that he saw himself as separate from the worldly political order. hence his statement to Pilate, " My Kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight,".

3) Again, the New Testament Church preched a lifestyle of peace and non-violence for the early Christians. It never explicitly condemns warfare or capital punishment as practiced by the civil government. In fact, the Apostle Paul implied that the coercive powers of government are God-ordained.

4) Although there are several examples of Jesus and the Apostles interacting with Roman military personnel who were interested in the message of Jesus, there is no record of anyone being charged to leave the military- they are merely admonished to deal with civilians fairly.

5) Jesus never denied the authority of the Old Testament Law authorizing warfare and capital punishment. on the contrary, he declared it binding.

On the other hand, as a Christian I am obligated to follow my Saviour by turning the other cheek, by not resisting evil, and by loving my enemy. I resolve the paradox in the following way:

The principle of pacifism refers only to Christians. It does not apply to the myriads of good people striving to do justice who are not Christians. It may be a GOOD deed for my neighbor or brother or friend to go to war, or execute a murderer. But "my kingdom is not of this world." My Kingdom is Christ's Kingdom and does not require physical defense. hence I will leave the questions of warfare to my non-christian fellow men, and pray that God gives them the wisdom to act with wisdom and do justice.

Incidentally, if anyone wishes the Scriptural references to the points above, I will be glad to supply them.

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 4

Vintermann (VnnMint's updated name)

"My Kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight,".

I would like a scriptural reference to especially the latter part of that verse! It would also be interesting to know which translation you use.

Your resolution of the so-called paradox seems itself paradoxical, how can God want Christians to obey one moral law, and non-christians to obey others?

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 5


Hello, Vinterman ! I had completely forgotten about posting this statement as no one has been active on this thread in quite a while.

The Bible reference you are looking for is John 18:36. I used the Authorized (King James) version, but it reads much the same in any version.

Also, it should be realized that God deals with different people in different ways depending on the knowledge and wisdom he has given. Throughout the prophets it is emphasized that, while God does have minimal standards of ethical behaviour for every nation, he holds Israel to much higher standards because he revealed himself and his will to that nation. In the same way, the New Testament emphasizes that a person must be called by God, and have his mind opened by God's Spirit. For this reason I will not attempt to argue anyone into an acceptance of Christianity. If a person has not been contacted by God, all my arguing is simply futile. If their minds have not been opened, they cannot come to a saving knowledge of Christ anyway. This does not mean that person is uniquely evil, merely that they do not yet have the same opportunity I have had. But such a person may still be a righteos person, depending on how he/she lives.I concluded that Christians are really citizens of Christ's Kingdom more than whatever country they reside in. Christians are called to higher service.

Sorry about the preaching....smiley - smiley

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 6

Jagged Jack

God speaking to you through your conscience doesn't sound like free will to me. Isn't there a contradiction there?

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 7


What's not free about it ? God does not COMPEL obedience to his promptings, he merely informs us of his will- whether we obey or not. In a sense, it may be that only Christians really have free will...

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 8

Jagged Jack

No, sorry, there really is a contradiction there. If you believe 'God' to be true, right and just, then you will always obey 'God'. At no point can you say, "I think God is wrong on this one" and then go do the opposite. As soon as you do, you cease to be a christian and a believer in the ways of 'God'. So in effect, the only free will you posses is limited to wether you choose to be a Christian or not...

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 9


" Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteosness "

We do not always do what we believe to be right... we sometimes do something different because - we really want to ! If the gospel is true, and Christians understand that, we then are the ones with the real free will- that is the knowledge to really make a choice. knowledge is power, the power to understand ... Only an informed choice is a free choice...

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 10

Jagged Jack

Once again, there's a contradiction. If you believe the Gospels to be true and base all your choices on this knowledge, then your choices are limited to what the gospels tell you. What you say raises more questions than it answers. What would make you do something you know is wrong? Why would you WANT to do the opposite of what you believe to be right? I don't really understand what you are trying to say...

Let's Debate Pacifism

Post 11


We do things we know are wrong sometimes, because nobody is perfect. A lot of the time the wrong thing to do is just really, really tempting, and sometimes we fall prey to it whether we are Christian or not. This shows we have free will, as we had the choice to do something right, but didn't do it. I'm not trying to make excuses, but as far as I see it, that's just the way things are. Do you always do the right thing, think the right thing, say the right thing no matter what? Including the little things?

Key: Complain about this post