Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pacifist Universalism and the Shaping of Personalities

It can be said that pacifism is the renunciation of violence. If Jesus said that those who live by the sword die by the sword, then why not renounce the sword? While it is true that Jesus had Peter sheath his sword, it is also true that until he came to the cross, Jesus’ twelve Apostles were armed. The problem confronting the pacifist is the mistaken notion that the sword is evil, that violence is evil. Pacifism, in renouncing the sword, disables man from carrying out just violence. Peter and his Apostolic brethen give up the physical sword in order to use the more violent sword of spiritual warfare against the Evil One and his dominion.

Some religious pacifists are quick to relate their non-violent views to the non-violent priesthood. But this is a mistake. Participants in spiritual warfare are tied eschatologically to an even more violent and just act: the casting of Satan and his dominion into Hell. It should strike us as odd when a man says he prefers spiritual warfare to physical warfare. Does he not know what he is saying? The kind of pain inflicted on an enemy soldier – like sending a bullet through his head – is rather small compared to the eternal torments of hell, which are the very pains that come from spiritual warfare.

The most deadly combination, however, involves the union of pacifism with universalism. Universalism is the belief that there is no eternal hell and that all of God’s creatures are destined to heaven. Logically speaking, one cannot be a universalist without also rejecting the eschatology of spiritual warfare. Moreover, universalists must not be familiar with the words of Christ, who is very clear about the reality and eternity of hell. What’s worse is that those who take the pacifist-universalist view have personalities shaped by this understanding. They become incapable of exercising just judgment and just violence. The last thing we need are bishops who will not punish bad actors in the priesthood or in the episcopacy.

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