When one reads pacifists it is easy to assume they have forgotten about sin. Pacifists tend to downplay sin and how ugly the world gets. They assume that all men are reasonable and therefore violence is never necessary. Andrew Fulford responds to this at the end of his book, Jesus and Pacifism. In this section he is critiquing Stanley Hauerwas’ critique of C.S. Lewis.
What I will note is a false assumption…the idea that all people ultimately have a good will. That is, some pacifism assumes that all violent individuals can ultimately be reasoned with, and therefore force is never really necessary. But this is simply not true, or at least we have no evidence to think it is. Violent sociopaths are people who violate this stricture: they are aware they hurt people and that what they are doing is wrong, but they do it anyway. And Scripture testifies that our experience is correct, that such rebellious people do exist…So in fact there is no good reason to assume we can always talk violent people out of their behavior, and that deep down they are all just folks like us. Sometimes they not.
Force is necessary at times because some men are so wicked that they will not listen to reason. For most of us this is as plain as the sun rising. But some pacifists cannot see this at all. I wonder if the Anabaptistic view of sin is one reason why they lean towards pacifism? That question will need to be answered another day. For now, it is clear that violent force is at times necessary.
Andrew Fulford in his excellent little book Jesus and Pacifism gives six common arguments pacifists use for “absolute non-violence.”
- The Cycle of violence: violence always provokes further violence and never really solves anything.
- The Limits of human knowledge: human beings can never truly determine the guilt of another person, and so coercive judgment can never be verified as just.
- The Immorality of punishment and vengefulness: the very idea of retribution and vengeance are immoral and barbaric.
- The Unloving character of violence: violence is inconsistent with the virtue of love.
- The Utopian character of violence: violence can never truly achieve real justice or common good, even while claiming that it can.
- Hierarchy as intrinsically dominative: any sort of hierarchy is unjust intrinsically, and thus so too for one person to punish someone under his or her authority.
Fulford writes that all these arguments do not assume that at one point violence was okay, but now it is wrong. Instead they “imply that non-violence has always been ethically obligatory.” The value of this list is that it helps the reader easily spot which argument is being used by a pacifist. Next time you are arguing a pacifist try to decide which argument is being used. He also does a good job of keeping these arguments before the reader as he unfolds his own argument that pacifism is wrong. Continue reading
Earlier I looked at the first just criteria for going to war, just cause. Here is the second in the words of Charles and Demy.
Right Intention: Morally guided force will seek to advance a greater good and secure a greater peace then heretofore had existed. Aquinas insists that belligerents should have a right intention “so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.” “It may happen,” he notes, ” that war is declared by the legitimate authority and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through wicked intention.” Unjust war is perhaps best illustrated by what does not constitute right intention. Such scenarios include a sovereign’s pride or reputation, vengeance, national aggrandizement, blood-thirst or lust for power, and territorial expansion. For war to be just, its aim must be a greater good, and that greater good is justly ordered peace…A just response acknowledges the greater goal of a just peace and goes beyond sentiments of hatred and vengeance that are so typical of human behavior. It is cognizant that anything apart from just cause negates the morality of the response.
Again, referring back to my last post, this criteria assumes a moral standard that can be determined through time and wisdom. Many of us look at this criteria and throw up our hands saying, “Who can really know if an intention is good or bad?” But this assumes no moral standard or at the very least an inability to determine right from wrong in concrete situations.
One more thing to remember is that this is not the only criteria. In other words, good intentions are not enough to make a war righteous. Many a country has violated other just war criteria by declaring that their motives are good.
There are two different types of just-war criteria. First, there is criteria for going to war. What conditions are necessary to enter a war righteously? Second, there is the criteria for conducting a just war. What is righteous when waging war? It is possible to violate the first, in other words go to war for an unjust reason, but conduct the war in a just manner. There are three criteria that just-war thinkers use to determine whether or not going to war is just. Here is the first. This entire quote is from Charles and Demy’s book War, Peace, and Christianity.
Just Cause. To establish the justness of a cause is to make fundamental moral distinctions-for example between innocence and guilt, between the criminal and punitive act, between retribution and revenge, between egregious human-rights violations (“crimes against humanity”) and the need for humanitarian intervention to restore basic human rights. In principle, just cause is motivated by two chief concerns: to rectify injustice or to prevent injustice; hence Aquinas can argue that “those who are attacked are attacked because they deserve on account of some wrong they have done.”
As fundamental as this idea is to Christianity and to humanity, in our age it difficult to swallow. Why? Many people, even Christians, are not sure objective truth can even be discovered. Can we really tell who is right and who is wrong? Aren’t all sides wrong in a war? Aren’t we just talking about degrees of guilt with no real innocence? Who can even determine if a cause is just or not? Relativity has infected us to such a degree that many Christians not only cannot tell the difference between innocence and guilt, they are not sure such a difference even exists, at least in the practical area of day to day life.
As I read Charles and Demy’s book one thought that struck me over and over again was that just-war thinking only works in a world of objective truth. If we cannot know what is true and good then justice is lost. For just-war thinking to prevail there must be a standard of guilt and innocence and the belief that with time and wisdom we can determine who the guilty party is in a conflict.