Christian Pacifism

Authored by: Daniel A. Dombrowski

The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Nonviolence

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138194663
eBook ISBN: 9781315638751
Adobe ISBN:


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The topic of the present article might seem to be a very particular one, but the case for Christian pacifism can escape the charge of parochialism for at least four reasons. First, the idea that war ought to be renounced comes to us from Christianity. Peter Brock ably shows that there is no known instance of non-vocational conscientious objection to participation in war, and no recorded advocacy of such objection, prior to the Christian era (Brock 1972). (The personal commitment to non-violence in ancient Hinduism and Buddhism was vocational in character in that it was applied in a way analogous to the medieval exemption of priests from warfare. One can be a vocational pacifist and still support just war theory, so long as others fight.) Second, although after the patristic period only a minority of Christians have been pacifists, between the patristic period and the nineteenth century in the West pacifism was nonetheless confined to those who were influenced by Christianity. Third, pacifism is a characteristic form of renewal in Christianity (as in some of the Franciscans, the Waldensians, the Quakers, etc.), hence current interest in pacifism has implications for Christianity, just as current renewal in Christianity has implications for non-Christian pacifism. And fourth, to the extent that Christian pacifism is defended on a rational basis that is distinguishable from a defense of it in terms of divine command theory, Christian pacifists and non-Christian pacifists travel along the same (or at least parallel) paths.

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