Science in Christian Perspective

 


Clark and His Critics on Pacifism

 

David F. Siemens, Jr., Ph.D., ASA Fellow
Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Los Angeles Pierce College

From: PSCF 48 (September 1996): 210-211.

The responses (p. 69, March 1996) to Dr. Clark (pp. 220-232, December 1995), which generally ignore his logic and data, are what I would expect. However, Garrison correctly points out an error in Clark's reference to a parable as justification. On the negative side, he tries to discount the nature of Roman military service. One must grant that the legions' duties involved keeping the peace. But one must also note that the distinction between the army, which in the United States is forbidden to act as a posse, and the peace officers police, sheriffs, marshals was unknown in antiquity. I would like to know how he would have persuaded the Gauls that Julius Caesar's legionnaires were state troopers, and the Jews that the assaults and massacres on Pilate's orders were police work or that Titus' army was merely keeping the peace at the sack of Jerusalem and the attack on Masada. He also passes over the total lack of condemnation of military men by John the Baptist, Christ, Peter and Paul (p. 228). Is it not significant that the first Gentile God brought into the church was a centurion?

Both critics ignore completely God's commands to Israel to exterminate some of their opponents (p. 222), though this has important consequences. The tacit rejection of the divine command to go to war (equated with murder) in favor of an absolute prohibition on killing (see p. 221) makes the God of Israel different from the Father revealed by Jesus. Although unintended, this is heresy.

Burka names pacifist authors whom Clark does not need to consider, for he has rendered them totally irrelevant (pp. 226ff). That pacifism demands the confusion of personal with national responsibilities came as a surprise to me some years ago, for all my ancestors were Mennonites. So I sympathize with Burka's confusion, but cannot condone it.

Burka is right that Christians are to be peacemakers. I thank God for their recent successes in South Africa and, since the carnage, in Rwanda. However, I note that both countries have a strong Christian witness. It is otherwise in Nigeria, Sudan and Iran, whose authorities brook no opposition as they try to set up fundamentalist Muslim states. Additionally, how long would the Kurds survive in Iraq except for the presence of armed Americans? The Marsh Arabs of southeastern Iraq, lacking foreign military protection, are being systematically exterminated. These Iraqi actions involve genocidal attacks by Muslims against Muslims, where elsewhere it is commonly Muslims against Christians and other non-Muslims. Need I remind Burka that peacemakers, simply because they were not partisan, were systematically killed by both parties in Rwanda? For that matter, I am here today because some of my non-violent ancestors, living near where Switzerland, France and Germany meet, made it to the border ahead of the authorities. They were not allowed to be peacemakers.