Monday, June 06, 2005

Why I am a Neocal Pacifist Part Two

I will try to reply to your concerns by way of sending a response to the published articles you sent me; as you may guess, I have good appreciation for much and some serious misgivings about other parts.

Your observation that my view is novel is not a new revelation for me; but that is rather the point. I reject the acceptance of a violent state (not to mention the dualism!) of Schlietheim, so to point out that I differ from the Mennonite view is only to reiterate what I already noted. I probably shouldn't admit it in such intellectual company (especially when Gideon says such nice things about my bookselling) but I've never read more than a handful of pages of Hauerwas, so he and his recently popular call to nonviolence isn't my main influence. I became a pacifist nearly 35 years ago while young in the faith, mostly by my naive studying the gospels. The neo-Calvinst movement--as explained by Pete Steen, Vandezande, Zylstra, Skillen, etc--has shaped my hope for Christ's transformation of culture (what Schaeffer called "substantial healing") which makes me want to press social institions to be what God intends in the new Earth. This includes my understanding of the high but limited authority of the state (so I reject the anti-authoritarianism of the anarachist pacifists.) (The aforementioned political mentors each have tried to talk me out of my nonviolence, each observing that it isn't Calvinist or realistic; perhaps I should listen to them.) I understand that this may lead to a view that is what you've termed "unstable" (and could bear unstable cultural fruit) but I don't think it necessarily follows that if one rejects lethal violence that there can be no legitimate authority, coercion or force, as you seemd to imply. Some Mennonites condemn even verbal coercion; many evangelical and Catholic pacifists are uncomfortable with force. In distinction, I think that the State is authorized to use power. But power--a God-given good--can be opened up in redemptive mercy or in violence. It ought not take to much sanctified imagination to think of ways this might happen---thse engaged in the science of conflict resoltuion have been seriously researching this for years. Just as some Old Testament wars were won through miracle-- prophetically pointing the way towards God's fuller intentions that will be seen in Christ's Kingdom--even legitimate cultural institions such as governments, may not trust in horses or use practices that mistreat the dignity of the image of God in others. Appropriate expressions of force, yes. Lethal or degrading violence, I am not convinced.

Recognizing that this view is a minority approach and novel, I may be willing to stand corrected. More urgent of a question, though, for those on this blog who stand more conventionally in the Reformed tradition on the situational use of killing---an approach that G. v.d. B. says is "quite clear"-- is how the current war meets the just war qualifications(last resort, for instance?) I've read Jean B Elshtain's book and almost found it compelling...

Thanks again for your patience and candor.

by: Byron Borger (URL) on 2005-05-30 23:29:42