Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just War v. Non-resistence Debate in Boston

Back on March 28th, there was a debate on "Should Christians Fight?" at Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Speaking in favor of Christians engaging in just war was:
Peter Kreeft (Ph.D. Fordham University) is professor of philosophy at Boston College. He is the author of over 67 books on philosophy, theology and Christian apologetics. A gifted thinker and speaker, he speaks at universities and churches all over the world. He draws inspiration from influential figures such as Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, and C. S. Lewis. 
J. Daryl Charles (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) has written over twelve books on ethics, Christian engagement in the public square, and just war. He is widely regarded as a leading authority on the Christian just war tradition.
Speaking against Christians in war will be:
David Bercot is an attorney (J.D., Baylor University), author, and speaker. He has numerous books on the subject of the early church, where he emphasizes the simplicity of biblical doctrine and early (pre-325 AD) Christian teaching over what he would call the complex and compromised body of theological understandings built up over the centuries that have come to be thought of as orthodoxy. 
Dean Taylor and his wife Tania were both in the U. S. Army when they realized that, as committed Christians, they had to come to grip with Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount on loving one's enemies. They ultimately left the Army in a new and sincere quest for truth, determined to follow Jesus Christ under the banner "no compromise." Mr. Taylor is a widely sought speaker who regularly addresses the question, "What if Jesus really meant every word He said?".

"It's Just War" - Should Christians Fight? Debate from FollowersOfTheWay on Vimeo.

Some Reflections

Shout out to Tim Colegrove for providing the link to the video and for hearing about the event.

When I initially read the names of those presenting at this debate, I was sure it would be a bloodbath (pun intended). On the Just War side sat two highly credentialed scholars. While on the non-resistance side sat two relatively unknown persons (at least to me!). I've been reading books by Peter Kreeft since I was 17; he is a premiere Christian apologist. I encountered the work of J. Daryl Charles when I was doing research for a paper on nonviolence at CUME. The title of his book, Between Pacifism and Jihad, struck me, so I read it cover to cover. It's reasoning was terrible, but its rhetorical punch was hard-hitting (seriously, the violence puns are just low-hanging fruit right now). And I know that his book is widely acclaimed among conservative Just War proponents in the US especially.

That's why it's so fascinating to me that it seemed entirely lopsided in favor of the non-resistance position. I thought the presentations of Drs. Charles and Kreeft were weak at best, but probably more honestly pathetic. I feel like I could have defended Just War tradition better than they did! But on the non-resistance side, I thought the representatives gave a very compelling presentation, even if I would have personally presented some parts slightly differently.

One portion of the debate that shocked me was when Dr. Kreeft seemed perplexed to find out that the non-resisters did not intend to impose the Jesus's teaching of enemy-love onto secular governments. I was very surprised he'd never encountered non-liberal pacifists. But since he is a world-renowned C. S. Lewis scholar and demonstrated his indebtedness to Lewis's essay "Why I'm Not a Pacifist" in his closing remarks, it's apparent that he has not very familiar with Anabaptist-like pacifism.

Possibly the most striking thing about the debate was the clear contrast between the representatives of non-resistance and the Just War defenders on emphasizing Jesus's teaching. I'm not sure J. Daryl Charles ever eludes to Jesus's teaching once for support accept to say that Jesus only meant for his teachings to be applied to inter-personal conflict, not military service. While, by contrast, I not sure the two non-resisters ever fail to point to Jesus's teachings in their presentations. If one was watching this debate as a person seeking a Christ-centered view, they would only be left with one option.

PS - I thought Dr. Charles's repeated appeals to Christians serving in "any vocation" to be a huge red herring. Certainly Christians cannot be loan sharks who exploit people and use violence. Charles's claim can only lead to a compartmentalization of "discipleship." At one point he even referred to a family member's "discipleship" in reference to their service to the State.

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