Just-War vs Pacifism

This is the final video for my project this year—in it I explore a central question of my theological formation:


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  1. Thanks for the video. Thanks for presenting both sides. For me, the Just-War side falls short because I believe they misinterpret/mistranslate Rom 13. I do not believe “ordain” is not the correct word there. According to Greek and to history, it cannot be correct. Just-War’s Biblical support is self-defeating when one considers this when two God-ordained governments fight each other. At that time, you have God fighting God, and a house divided will not stand. There is a different and better way to understand God’s relationship with governments.

    Additionally, one of the speakers in your video said that government is necessary for social order. I disagree. Was government necessary for Abraham and his sons within Genesis? They didn’t live under any government until Joseph was appointed to the Egyptian government. Government wasn’t necessary for them. Government itself is an invention of man, which God uses as His servants. In other words, government is ordained by MAN but is not beyond the control or direction of God.


    • That’s interesting to hear–why do you say that? The translation seems fine with me, besides perhaps the modern religious connotations of the word. Also, I think your “God fighting God” comment is right and demands a more nuanced reading of Romans 13.

      Dr. Mark Powell, the speaker, I think is just using stronger language to make the point: governments are /helpful/ in maintaining the social order. And if we understand them as helpful and good in that way, then we’re halfway to saying violence (yielded in the right way) is helpful and good for accomplishing righteous tasks (like protecting the innocent).

      All that to say, I really appreciate your feedback. I still find myself favoring pacifism, especially on a nation-state level, but it has become harder in my mind to defend on a personal level in very particular (as well as unlikely) scenarios.


  2. Thanks for asking. I think the problem with translating/interpreting God’s actions as “ordaining,” is that Paul’s words apply to every government. For Paul, it was the Roman government. And the inspiration of the Holy Spirit knew that Christianity would not-so-long-after-Paul become illegal with the death penalty. So there are governments that are anti-God because they persecute and kill Christians. Are these governments ordained by God? Ordination means approval, and that is where the problem is. This interpreting (whether the person realizes it or not) says that God approve and designs the persecution and martyrdom of His church.

    To share some examples, according this “ordination view,” then Europe had no place to oppose the German/Nazi government. And the attrodcities that are currently happening in North Korea are to be allowed to continue. Because, according to this view, these governments were instituted by God. And if we oppose their actions, then we are opposing God.

    Secondly, according to this view, it would be a sin against God for any country to go to war against any other country. This flies in the face of American patriotism. For on one side, “patriots in the church” say we should submit to our government without question… while at the same time, they praise the 18th century American patriots who fought against their government, the British. Regard “patriots in the church,” honest seekers of truth must take our pick about this view: blatantly inconsistent or hypocritical.

    Now, how should that word be read? First, I can understand why so many translations say “ordained.” Because the Greek word that would be translated ordained is similar to the word Paul uses here. “Tasso” means “to put” or “arrange.” This is the word Paul uses. But when it comes to ordination, like when Paul talked about appointing/ordaining elders, he used “diatasso.” It means to “arrange fully” or most literally “through appointment.”

    How I think this word should be interpreted/translated is “arrange.” Ordination is official approval. Arrangement is setting something in place. We can have an idea of what ordination is when we think about bishops, cardinals, priests, etc. This of arrangement this way: God is playing chess. Whether you are a government who loves God or a government who hates God, God is the one who arranges and moves the pieces. The best example of this is Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was an enemy of God, not so much different from that uncircumcised giant, Goliath. Yet God still called Nebuchadnezzar His servant! But he was a complete polytheistic pagan! God arranged (not ordained) the Babylonian Empire to discipline the Israelites. Was Nebuchadnezzar aware that God was using him? I doubt it, but God was! Another example is Cyrus, who God also calls his servant. He wasn’t a Jew but believed in Zoroastrianism. Yet Cyrus was a good king who respected the God of the Jews. Did he know that God was using him? I believe so. Because before Babylon conquered the Jews, Isaiah mentioned Cyrus BY NAME. Since Daniel was under Cyrus, I believe Daniel showed King Cyrus Isaiah’s prophecy.

    In short, God ordained kings like Saul, David, and Solomon. We see that through their anointing. But when it comes to any other government under the sun, God appoints all of them. Did God appoint/arrange the Nazis and North Korea? Yes, God is allowing their existence to play out. But the entire Bible is filled with statements about how God overthrows great kingdoms and great kings. We just have to wait for God’s timing.

    Sorry for the novel. But this is how I understand all this. There is more that could be said, but this is enough. 🙂


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