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United Kingdom, 15 February 2017

Good morning! Vicki and I are spending some much-needed husband / wife time in the UK (my wife's native country). 

Today we tackle another one of your questions. Although there's already a lot at the site on such topics as force, violence, and war, this query is more nuanced, and I thought deserved a more thorough reply. Following is a shortened version of my response. A link is provided for those who'd prefer the (full) original. Note: Repeat questions are filtered out by one of my assistants -- a brother in California, without whom I'd be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity. (Thanks, Sean!)

Q&A 1461: Should I work for a company producing weapons?

"I am considering a job offer from a company whose parent company is involved in the weapons industry. This obviously raised some questions for me as a Christian. On the one hand, Jesus prohibits killing (Matt 5:38-48). On the other hand, Peter and Paul identify official authority as instituted by God to protect 'good' and punish 'evil' (Rom 13:3-4; 1 Pet 2:13-14). Further, Jesus allows his disciples to use the sword (Luke 22:36; John 18:10), at least for self defense (Luke 22:36; John 18:10). He also cleansed the temple of traders and animals by means of a whip (John 2:15). So my provisional conclusion: God teaches me to be a total pacifist on a relationship level (social life), but on the state level He allows me the use of power to protect the innocent and to combat evil. What do you say?"

Whether the Lord deals with us on two levels remains to be demonstrated, yet overall I agree: you are right to think hard before making your decision. In my opinion, we need to keep our distance from weapons manufacturing. If my professional contributions were directly financing warfare, I'd resign. (I cannot imagine Jesus creating mines, chemical weapons, bioweapons, or nuclear devices to be used against my brothers and sisters — let alone on those who are not ready to meet the Lord.) But if they weren’t directly supporting war, I would probably remain. Further thoughts:
  • The apostles identify official authority as instituted by God to protect good and punish evil, yet this has nothing to do with whether Christians may resort to violence. Peter and Paul are referring to the government.
  • As for bearing the sword for self-defense, Jesus rebuked Peter for drawing the sword, even when Peter was attempting to protect an innocent person (Jesus)! Further, if he was advocating bearing arms, two swords (Luke 22:38) would be way too few for the Twelve! It seems he's only saying something like “From now on, you will be in danger.” When his disciples took him literally, he said “Enough!” 
  • Jesus did cleanse the temple by means of a whip, yet there's no indication he attacked people.
  • God could be teaching pacifism on a relationship level (social life), yet not on an official or state level, only if the teaching of Martin Luther is correct. He taught that each Christian is really two persons, one standing before God as a follower of Christ's commands, the other a representative of the state, who is not required to follow Jesus' teaching in Matt 5 and elsewhere. But biblically we are only one person. If the government tells you to assassinate someone, or to sleep with a double-agents’s wife in order to extract state secrets, or torture its enemies, you must refuse — as did the early church unanimously until the 4th century.
  • The church's position on military service was simple: No idolatry, no oaths (like swearing to the genius of Caesar), and no killing. Otherwise one had to resign—even if it meant execution.
  • It is clear from church history when the church sanctioned violence. The change began with Constantine (d.337)—violence among church people steadily increasing until Augustine and Ambrose formulated “Just War Theory” to legitimize violence (which itself implies that military violence was a novelty). God's people under the new covenant had been pacifist for their first 300 years.
  • Note: Pacifism, working for peace by modeling the behavior of Christ (loving service, reconciliation, prayer, and so forth) should not be confused with passivism, or selfishly doing nothing.
  • Sadly, the disastrous fourth century saw peaceful disciples turn into persons of violence; the persecuted became the persecutor (!). Within a few generations Christians were participating in riots, vandalism, lawsuits, killing, and dozens other behaviors that discredited the gospel and dishonored Christ.
The Q&A has been significantly shortened. For the full article, here's the direct link.


For the final February newsletter, you will find answers (links) to 10 more questions readers have submitted through the website. On a happy note (for me), I have now replied to all the (new) questions submitted in the years up to autumn 2016, and hope to have cleared the docket by the time I return from the debate with Imam Shabir Ally at month end.

Israel, July 2017

So far 86 persons, from 15 nations (in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America), have registered for the 2017 Biblical Study Tour (BST). There are still a few places left, so please send an email if you're interested in joining us. As of today there are six rooms available.

Thanks for making time to read the Wednesday newsletter. And as always, your prayers too are appreciated.

Your brother,

All material (c) 2017 by Douglas Jacoby.       unsubscribe from this list           update subscription preferences