Down With the Pacifists!

The past week has been a great one for slipshod attacks on pacifism. First, from First Things (Stephen H. Webb) on October 15 —- “John Howard Yoder and the Violent Power of Pacifism” (emphasis added below):

“Nevertheless, pacifists, at least the ones I know, can be very enthusiastic about the rightness of their cause. Since there is no rational justification for pacifism, defenders typically turn their rhetoric against their critics by casting them as stooges of the status quo. Since pacifists are against all forms of violence, anyone who disagrees with them must be in favor of violence. What this ploy misses is obvious. In a fallen world, not only is violence pervasive but it is also a toxin that, when legitimately used, can cure as well as kill.


“So we now know that [John Howard] Yoder was a violent man who believed so wholeheartedly in his own non-violent theology that he thought he could re-order human sexual relations. This single case does not invalidate pacifism, but it does reveal just how delusional the pacifist goal can be. The pursuit of peace at all costs is just as dangerous as any other dream that cuts against the realities of human nature.”

Exactly one week later, Mark Driscoll came out with this gem, “Is God a Pacifist?”:


“One of the defining attributes of God’s coming kingdom is shalom—perfect peace untainted by sin, violence, or bloodshed of any sort. Such a kingdom is only possible if an all-powerful, benevolent Authority vanquishes his enemies. In other words, the Prince of Peace is not a pacifist.

“God is the author of life and sovereign over death.

“Those who want to portray Jesus as a pansy or a pacifist are prone to be very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote. But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ. When he became a man, he walked the earth as a working-class carpenter. The European, long-haired, dress-wearing, hippie Jesus is a bad myth from a bad artist who mistook Jesus for a community college humanities professor. But if we want to learn all about Jesus we have to read all that the Bible says about him. Here’s how Jesus will appear one day:” [Proceeds to quote his favorite Bible passage, Revelation 14:14-20.]

What about you? What’s your take on pacifism? And, if you’re going to critique it, please do a better job than Driscoll & Co.!

By joshuapsteele

The Rev. Dev. I solve problems with a pastor's heart for people and a programmer's eye for detail. Learn more at


  1. I don’t think God is a pacifist, in that I believe he will destroy his enemies on that last day. But I’m not sure necessitate us being that way. God also lives for his own glory, but that means we live for ours; rather, we live for his. I tend to think that because God will vanquish every enemy, we are to trust him to do just that. I’m not sure i’m a strict pacifist, but I lean that way. Clearly, to me, his way is not strict pacifism (OT Conquests, etc.). But it seems that the command to the *church* is peace and surrender to suffering (broadly speaking). I don’t think that negates men defending their wives and children, etc.

    I think Driscoll’s critique of hippy Jesus is actually true, but I don’t think that it should be applied to pacifists who are attempting to be Biblical and not just ignore hard parts of the Bible.

    I hope I’m not being inconsistent. Is that clear?

    1. No, that was pretty clear, Griffin. I agree with your distinction between how God behaves and how his people are to behave. Miroslav Volf makes, in my opinion, an excellent case for the divine prerogative to violence (to make an end of violence itself) in Exclusion and Embrace.

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