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The Early Christian Attitude to War

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Page 31, continued

Chapter 4: STATEMENTS OF JESUS AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS APPARENTLY LEGITIMIZING WARFARE FOR CHRISTIANS

There are, however, a number of passages and incidents in the Gospels, which are thought by many to show that Jesus' disuse of violence and disapproval of war were not absolute, or at any rate are not binding on his followers to-day; and it remains

 
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to be seen whether any of them constitutes a valid objection to the conclusion we have just reached.

I. To begin with, in the very passage in which the non-resistance teaching is given, occurs the precept: "Whoever 'impresses' thee (to go) one mile, go two with him."(1) It is urged that the word translated 'impresses' is a technical term for the requirement of service by the State, and that Jesus' words therefore enjoin compliance even with a compulsory demand for military service.

But it is clear that military service, as distinct from general state labour, is not here in question: for (1) the technical term here used referred originally to the postal system of the Persian Empire, the aggaros not being a soldier or recruiting officer, but the king's mounted courier; (2) instances of its later usage always seem to refer to forced labour or service in general, not to service as a soldier(2); and (3) the Jews were in any case exempt from service in the Roman legions, so that if, as seems probable, the Roman 'angaria' is here referred to, military service proper cannot be what is contemplated.

II. Secondly, it is pointed out that, in the little intercourse Jesus had with soldiers, we find no mention made of any disapproval on his part of the military calling. His record in this respect is somewhat similar to that of the Baptist,(3) whose example, however, must

 

 

1. Mt v. 41: kai ostis se aggareusei milion en upage met autou duo.

 

2. Mt xxvii. 32 || (the soldiers 'impressed'--eggareusan-- Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross). See the article 'angaria' in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities: "The Roman angaria . . . included the maintenance and supply, not only of horses, but of ships and messengers, in forwarding both letters and burdens." The Lexicons give no hint that the word was used for impressing soldiers.

3. See Lk iii. 14: "And men on service" (strateuomenoi, who had received his baptism) "asked him, saying, 'And what are we to do?' and he said to them, 'Never extort money from anyone (medena diaseisete), or falsely accuse anyone; and be content with your pay.'

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not be taken as indicating or determining the attitude of his greater successor.

When Jesus was asked by a gentile centurion, in the service of Herodes at Capernaum, to cure his servant, he not only did so, without (as far as the record goes) uttering any disapproval of the man's profession, but even expressed appreciation of his faith in believing (on the analogy of his own military authority) that Jesus could cure the illness at a distance by a simple word of command.(4)

No conclusion, however, in conflict with the position already reached can be founded on this incident. The attempt to draw such a conclusion is at best an argument from silence. Considering the, number of things Jesus must have said of which no record has been left, we cannot be at all sure that he said nothing on this occasion about the illegitimacy of military service for his own followers. And even supposing he did not, is it reasonable to demand that his views on this point should be publicly stated every time he comes across a soldier? Allowance has also to be made for the fact that the centurion was a gentile stranger, who, according to Luke's fuller narrative, was not even present in person, and in any case was not a candidate for discipleship.

The utmost we can say is that at this

 

 

4. Mt viii. 5-13 ||. Seeley (Ecce Homo, pref. to 5th edn, p. xvi), says of the centurion: "He represented himself as filling a place in a graduated scale, as commanding some and obeying others, and the proposed condescension of one whom he ranked so immeasurably above himself in that scale shocked him. This spirit of order, this hearty acceptance of a place in society, this proud submission which no more desires to rise above its place than it will consent to fall below it, was approved by Christ with unusual emphasis and warmth." This. misses the point: the centurion's words about being under authority and having others under him expressed, not his humility or reverence for Jesus, who was not above him in military rank, but his belief in Jesus' power to work the cure by word of command; and it was this belief that Jesus approved so heartily.

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particular moment the mind of Jesus was not focused on the ethical question now before us: but even that much is precarious, and moreover, if true, furnishes nothing inconsistent with our previous conclusion.

III. The expulsion of the traders from the Temple courts(5) is often appealed to as the one occasion on which Jesus had recourse to violent physical coercion, thereby proving that his law of gentleness and nonresistance was subject to exceptions under certain circumstances.

Exactly what there was in the situation that Jesus regarded as justifying such an exception has not been shown. If however the narratives given by the four evangelists be attentively read in the original, it will be seen (1) that the whip of cords is mentioned in the Fourth Gospel only, which is regarded by most critical scholars as historically less trustworthy than the other three, and as having in this instance disregarded historical exactitude by putting the narrative at the beginning instead of at the close of Jesus ministry,(6) (2) that even the words of the Fourth Gospel do not necessarily mean that the whip was used on anyone besides the cattle,(7) (3) that the action of Jesus, so far as the men were concerned, is described in all four accounts by the same word, ekballo. This word means literally 'to cast out,' but is also used of Jesus being sent into the wilderness,(8)of him expelling the mourners from Jairus' house,(9) of God sending out workers into his vineyard,(10) of a man 

 

 

5. Mk xi. 15-17; Mt xxi. 12 f; Lk xix. 45 f; John ii. 13-17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. I mention this argument for what it is worth, though personally I incline to accept the historicity of the Fourth Gospel here, both as regards chronology and details.

7. John ii. 15 says: kai poiesas phragellion ek schoinion pantas exebalen ek tou ierou ta te probata Kai tous boas, ktl.

8. Mk. i. 12.

9. Mk v. 40 ||.

10. Mt ix. 38||.

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taking out a splinter from the eye,(11) of a householder bringing forth things out of his store,(12) of a man taking money out of his purse,(13) and of a shepherd sending sheep out of the fold.(14)

Here therefore it need mean no more than an authoritative dismissal. It is obviously impossible for one man to drive out a crowd by physical force or even by the threat of it. What he can do is to overawe them by his presence and the power of his personality, and expel them by an authoritative command. That apparently is what Jesus did.(15) In any case, no act even remotely cornparable to wounding or killing is sanctioned by his example on this occasion.

IV. In his prophecies of the Last Things, Jesus spoke of the wars of the future. He said that nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, that wars and rumours of wars would be heard of, that Judaea would be devastated, Jerusalem besieged and taken by the gentiles, and the Temple defiled and destroyed.(16) It is difficult to separate these announcements from those other general prophecies in which calamity is foretold as the approaching judgment of God upon the sins of communities and individuals.(17) In this connection too we have to consider the parabolic descriptions of the king who, angered at 

11. Mt vii. 4 ||.

12. Mt xii. 35, xiii. 52.

13. Lk x. 35.

14. John x. 4

 

15. "It is the very point of the story, not that He, as by mere force, can drive so many men, but that so many are seen retiring before the moral power of one--a mysterious being, in whose face and form the indignant of innocence reveals a tremendous feeling they can nowise comprehend much less are able to resist" (Horace Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 219).

16. Mk xiii. 2, 7 f, 14-20 ||s; Mt xxiv. 28; Lk xvii. 22-37, xix. 41-44, xxiii. 28-31.

17. Mt xi. 23 f ||, xiii, 37-43, 49 f, xxi. 41 ||s, xxiii. 33-36; Lk xii. 54- 9, xix. 44b, xxi. 22.

 

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the murder of his slaves, sent his armies, destroyed the murderers, and burnt their city,(18) of the other king who executed the citizens that did not wish him to rule over them,(19) and of other kings and masters who punished their offending servants with more or less violence.(20)

These passages seem to prove beyond question that, in Jesus' view, God under certain conditions punishes sinners with terrible severity, and that one notable example of such punishment would be the complete overthrow of the Jewish State as the result of a disastrous war with Rome. That being so, may we not infer from God's use of the Roman armies as the rod of His anger, that Jesus would have granted that under certain circumstances his own followers might make themselves the agents of a similar visitation by waging war?

As against such an inference, we have to bear in mind (1) that wherever the infliction appears as the direct act of God, the language is always highly parabolic, and the exact interpretation proportionately difficult; nothing more than the single point of divine punishment is indicated by these parables; even the more fundamental idea of divine love--the context in which the divine severity must admittedly be read--is omitted. Can we infer from the parable of the hardworked slave,(21) illustrating the extent of the service we owe to God, that Jesus approves of a master so treating his slaves, or from the parabolic description of himself plundering Satan,(22) that he sanctions burglary? (2) that the difference between divine and human prerogatives in the matter of punishing sin is deep and vital, God's power, 

18. Mt xxii. 7.

19. Lk xix. 27.

20. Mt xviii. 34 f, xxii. 13, xxiv. 50f ||, xxv. 30; cf Lk xviii 7 f.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21. Lk xvii. 7-10 (Moffatt's trans).

22. Mk iii. 27 ||s.

 

Page 37 love, knowledge, and authority making just for Him what would be unjust if done by man(23); (3) that, in the case of the Jewish war, the instruments of God's wrath were unenlightened gentiles who in a rebellion could see nothing better to do than to crush the rebels; duty might well be very different for Christian disciples; (4) that the conception of foreign foes being used to chastise God's people was one familiar to. readers of the I Hebrew Scriptures, and did not by any means imply the innocence of the foes in question(24); (5) that, while Jesus holds up the divine perfection in general as a model for our imitation, yet, when he descends to particulars, it is only the gentle side of God's method of dealing with sinners--to the express exclusion of the punitive side--which he bids us copy,(25) and which he

23. For this view, cf I Sam xxiv. 12: "The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee."

24. Isa x. 5-19; Jer l. 23, li. 20-26; Zech. i. 15, etc.

25. Mt v. 44-48 ||, cf vii. 11. A similar distinction appears in Paul (Rom xii. 17-xiii. 7), which we shall have to discuss later. I cannot refrain from quoting here an interesting conversation that occurs in Dickens' Little Dorritt (Bk ii, ch. 31):

"I have done," said Mrs. Clennam, "what it was given me to do. I have set myself against evil; not against good. I have been an instrument of severity against sin. Have not mere sinners like myself been commissioned to lay it low in all time?"

"In all time?" repeated Little Dorrit.

"Even if my own wrong had prevailed with me, and my own vengeance had moved me, could I have found no justification? None in the old days when the innocent perished with the guilty, a thousand to one? When the wrath of the hater of the unrighteous was not slaked even in blood, and yet found favour?"

"Oh, Mrs. Clennam, Mrs. Clennam," said Little Dorrit, "angry feelings and unforgiving deeds are no comfort and no guide to you and me. My life has been passed in this poor prison, and my teaching has been very defective; but let me implore you to remember later and better days. Be guided only by the healer of the sick, the raiser of the dead, the friend of all who were afflicted and forlorn, the patient Master who shed tears of compassion for our infirmities. We cannot but be right if we put all the rest away, and do everything in remembrance of Him. There is no vengeance and no infliction of suffering in His life, I am sure. There can be no confusion in following Him, and seeking for no other footsteps, I am certain."

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himself copied in that supreme act in which he revealed God's heart and moved sinners to repentance, namely, his submission to the cross.

V. Difficulty has sometimes been raised over Jesus' illustrative allusions to war. There cannot be any question as to the purely metaphorical character of his picture of the two kings at war with unequal forces--given to enforce the duty of counting in advance the cost of discipleship,(26) or of his allusion to violent men snatching the Kingdom or forcing their way into it(27) -- a demand for eagerness and enterprise in spiritual things.(28) The parabolic description of the king sending his armies to avenge his murdered slaves(29) has already been dealt with. More easily misunderstood is the passage in which Jesus states that he was sent not to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.(30)

But there is no real difficulty, here: Jesus is simply saying that, as a result of his coming, fierce antipathies will arise against his adherents on the part of their fellow-men. The context clearly reveals the meaning; the word 'sword' is used metaphorically for dissension, and a result is announced as if it were a purpose, quite in accordance with the deterministic leanings of the Semitic mind. No sanction for the Christian engaging in war can be extracted from the passage, any more than a sanction of theft can

26. Lk xiv. 31-33.

27. Mt xi. 12; Lk xvi. 16.

28. Seeley, in the passage quoted above (p. 33 n 1), says: "As Christ habitually compared his Church to a state or kingdom, so there are traces that its analogy to an army was also present to his mind." Seeley has, as I have pointed out, misunderstood the words of Jesus and the centurion about each other; but Jesus' approval of the centurion's ascription to him of quasi-military power on the analogy of his (the centurion's) own power lends a little colour to the view which Seeley here expresses.

29. Mt xxii. 6f.

30. Mt x. 34: cf Lk xii. 51.

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be drawn from Jesus' comparison of his coming to that of a thief in the night.(31)

More serious difficulty is occasioned by an incident narrated by Luke in his story of the Last Supper. After reminding his disciples that they had lacked nothing on their mission-journeys, though unprovided with purse, wallet, and shoes, Jesus counsels them now to take these necessaries with them, and adds: "And let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this which has been written must be accomplished in me, 'And he was reckoned with the lawless.' For that which concerneth me has (its own) accomplishment" (telos). They tell him there are two swords there, and he replies abruptly: "It is enough."(32)

No entirely satisfactory explanation of this difficult passage has yet been given.(33) The obvious fact that two swords were not enough to defend twelve men seems to rule out a literal interpretation; and the closing words of Jesus strongly suggest that the disciples, in referring to actual swords, had misunderstood him. The explanation suggested by Harnack,(34) that the sword was meant metaphorically to represent the stedfast defence of the Gospel under the persecution now approaching, is perhaps the best within our reach at present: at all events, until one obviously

31. Mt xxiv. 43 ||.

32. Lk xxii. 35-38.

33. One recent attempt may be referred to. B. W. Bacon distinguishes two sections in Jesus' Messianic programme; first, the gathering of the flock, when premature Zealotism was guarded against by non-resistance; secondly, when the flock would have to defend itself. Thus, Peter's sword is "returned to its sheath to await the predicted day of need" (Christus Militans, in The Hibbert Journal, July 1918, pp. 542, 548, 550f). But Peter had to sheathe his sword, because "all they that take the sword will perish by the sword," not simply because his act was badly timed: and beyond this precarious reading of the 'two-swords' passage, there is nothing in the Gospels to support the idea of a coming period of violent self-defence, and much that is highly inconsistent with it.

34. Harnack MC 4 f.

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better has been produced, we cannot infer from the passage that Jesus was really encouraging his disciples to go about armed. Peter took a sword with him that very night, but on the first occasion on which he used it, he was told by Jesus not to do so.(35)

VI. It is clear that Jesus accorded a certain recognition to the civil governments of his day.

It is doubtful whether the Temptation-story compels us to believe that he regarded the Roman Empire as objectively Satanic: an explanation of the story has been offered which involves no such supposition.(36) He called the Roman coins 'the things that belong to Caesar,'(37) and bade the Jews pay them to their owner: in the Fourth Gospel he is made to tell Pilatus that the latter's magisterial power over him had been given to him 'from above'(38): he revered King David and the Queen of Sheba(39): he spoke of the old Mosaic Law, with its pains and penalties, as 'the word of God'(40): he reckoned 'judgment' (? = the administration of justice) among the weightier matters of the Law, and rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting it(41): courtiers, judges, rulers, and councillors were numbered among his friends and admirers(42): he was scrupulously obedient to the Jewish Law,(43) and paid the Temple tax, even though he thought it unfair(44): he enjoined compliance with the State's demand for forced labour(45): he would undertake no sort of active opposition to the

35. See above, p. 30.

36. See above, pp. 26 f.

37. Mk xii. 17 ||s: ta Kaisaros.

38. John xix. 11

39. Mk ii. 25 f ||s, xii. 35-37 ||s, Mt xii. 42 ||.

40. Mk vii. 8-13 ||.

41. Mt xxiii. 23 ||.

42. Mk xv. 43; Lk vii. 2-6, viii. 3, xiv. 1, xxiii. So f; John iii. 1, 10, iv. 46ff, vii. 50-52, xii. 42, xix. 38f.

43. Mt v. 17-19 11, viii. 4 ||s, xxiii. 2,23 fin; Lk xvii. 14.

44. Mt xvii. 24-27.

45. Mt v. 41; cf xxvii. 32.

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governments of his day: he submitted meekly to the official measures that led to his own death; and his refusal to be made a king by the Galilaeans(46) marks a certain submissiveness even towards Herodes, for whom he seems to have had much less respect than for other rulers.

Does not all this--it may be asked--does not, in particular, the command to 'Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,' carry with it the duty of rendering military service if and when the government demands it? Important as the words about Caesar doubtless are, they must not be made to bear more than their fair weight of meaning.

Caesar, it was well understood, had formally exempted the Jews from service in his legions; and the question was, not whether they should fight for him, but whether they should bow to his rule and pay his taxes. To part with one's property at the demand of another person does not make one responsible for all that person's doings, nor does it imply a readiness to obey any and every command that that person may feel he has a right to issue. Jesus sanctioned disobedience to Caesar in forbidding his followers to deny him before kings and governors(47); and refusal to disobey his ethical teaching at Caesar's bidding would be but a natural extension of this precept. If it be urged that the phrase ta Kaisaros and the other evidence quoted point to some sort of real justification on Jesus' part of the imperial and other governments, it may be replied that that justification was relative only -- relative, that is, to the imperfect and unenlightened state of the agents concerned. The fact that they were not as yet ready to be his own followers was an essential condition of his approval of

 

 

46. John vi. 15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47. Mt x. 17 f, 28-33||s.

 

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their public acts. That approval, therefore, did not affect the ethical standard he demanded from his own disciples.(48)

VII. It is commonly assumed that obedience to the nonresistance teaching of Jesus is so obviously inconsistent with the peace and well-being of society that he could not have meant this teaching to be taken literally.

Thus Professor Bethune-Baker says: "If the right of using force to maintain order be denied, utter social disorganization must result. Who can imagine that this was the aim of one who . . . ? It was not Christ's aim; and He never gave any such command."(49) "The selfforgetting altruism, the ideal humanity and charity," says Schell, "would, by a literal fulfillment of certain precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, offer welcome encouragement to evil propensities, and by its indulgence would even provoke the bad to riot in undisciplined excess."(50) "A country," says Loisy, "where all the good people conformed to these maxims would, instead of resembling the kingdom of heaven, be the paradise of thieves and criminals."(51)

This plausible argument is however erroneous, for it ignores in one way or another three important facts:

(1) The ability to practise this teaching of Jesus is strictly relative to the status of discipleship: the Teacher issues it for

48. John indeed tells us (xii. 42) that 'many of the rulers believed on him' and (xix. 38) calls Joseph of Arimathaea, who we know was a councillor (Mk xv. 43), a disciple; but how much does this prove? These people were afraid to let their discipleship be publicly known, and the rulers 'loved the glory of men more than the glory of God' (xii. 43). certainly cannot argue from silence that Jesus approved of any regular disciple of his pronouncing or executing judicial penalties or acting as a soldier.

49. B.-Baker ICW 13.

50. Quoted by Holtzmann, Neutestamentliche Theologie (1911), i. 229 f.

51. Ibid.

 

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immediate acceptance, not by the whole of unredeemed humanity, still less by any arbitrarily chosen local group of people (one nation, for instance, as distinct from others), but by the small though growing company of his own personal disciples. It is essentially a law for the Christian community.

(2) The negative attitude which this teaching involves is more than compensated for by its positive counterpart. Jesus and his disciples use no force, but they are on that account by no means ciphers in the struggle against sin. The changes wrought by Jesus in the Gerasene maniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, the extortionate tax-gatherer, and the thief on the cross, show what a far more efficient reformer of morals he was than the police. As we shall see later, his first followers worked on the same lines, and met with the same splendid success. Nor is it very difficult to see how enfeebled would have been this policy of Jesus and the early Christians, if it had been combined by them with a use of coercion or of the punitive power of the state. True, as long as man's will is free, moral suasion is not bound to succeed in any particular case; but the same is true also of the use of force. The point is that the principles of Jesus, as a general policy, so far from leaving human sin unchecked, check it more effectively than any coercion or penalization can do.

(3) The growth of the Christian community is a gradual growth, proceeding by the accession of one life at a time. Two gradual processes have thus to go on pari passu, firstly, a gradual diminution in the number of those who use violence to restrain wrong, and secondly, a gradual diminution in the number of those who seem to them to need

 
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forcible restraint.(52) The concomitance of these processes obviously means no such "utter social disorganisation" as is often imagined, but a gradual and steady transition to greater social security.

VIII. Lastly, we have to consider the view which frankly admits that the teaching of Jesus is inconsistent with the use of arms, but regards that teaching as an 'interim ethic,' framed wholly with an eye to the approaching break-up of the existing world-order (when by God's intervention the Kingdom would be set up), and therefore as having no claim to the strict obedience of modern Christians who perforce have to take an entirely different view of the world.

Dr. Wilhelm Herrmann of Marburg presents this view in a paper which appears in an English form in Essays on the Social Gospel (London, 1907).(53) On the ground of the supposed historical discovery that Jesus looked upon human society as near its end, he cheerfully emancipates the modern Christian from the duty of "absolutely obeying in our rule of life to-day, the traditional words of Jesus."(54)

 

Endeavours to imitate Jesus in points inseparable from His especial mission in the world, and His position--which is not ours,--towards that world--efforts like these lacking the sincerity of really necessary tasks, have so long injured the cause of Jesus, that our joy will be unalloyed when scientific study at last reveals to every one the impossibility of all such attempts.(55)

As a result of that frame of mind whereby we are united with Him, we desire the existence of a national State, with a character and

52. The power of Christianity to extirpate crime was insisted on by Tolstoi in his novel Work while ye have the Light (ET published by Heinemann, 1890).

 

 

 

 

53. pp. 176-185, 202-225.

54. p. 182.

 

 

55. p. 181.

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with duties with which Jesus was not yet acquainted; we will not let ourselves be led astray, even if in this form of human nature various features are as sharply opposed to the mode of life and standpoint of Jesus as is the dauntless use of arms.(56)  

This view, though quoted from a German author, represents the standpoint of a good deal of critical opinion in this country, and is in fact the last stronghold of those who realize the impossibility of finding any sanction for war in the Gospels, but who yet cling to the belief that war is in these days a Christian duty.

In regard to it we may say (1) that 'scientific study' has not yet proved that the mind of Jesus was always dominated by an expectation of a world-cataclysm destined to occur within that generation. The Gospels contain non-apocalyptic as well as apocalyptic sayings, and there are no grounds for ruling out the former as ungenuine. Early Christian thought tended to over-emphasize the apocalyptic element, a fact which argues strongly for the originality of the other phase of Jesus' teaching. His ethics cannot be explained by reference to his expectation of the approaching end. On the contrary, "where He gives the ground of His command, as in the case of loving enemies, forgiveness, and seeking the lost, it is the nature of God that He dwells upon, and not anything expected in the near or distant future."(57)

(2) Herrmann maintains that "the command to love our enemies" and the words of Jesus "dealing with the love of peace" are not to be included among the

 

 

56. pp. 217 f.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

57. I borrow these words from a private pamphlet by my friend Mr. J. A. Halliday, of Newcastle, and others.

 

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sayings which have to be explained by the idea of the approaching end.(58) But he does not point to anything in these sayings which entitles him to treat them as exceptional; nor does he explain how obedience to them--seeing that after all they are to be obeyed--can be harmonized with "the dauntless use of arms."

(3) The appeal to the interim-ethic theory, however sincere, has a pragmatic motive behind it, as Herrmann's words about the desire for a national state clearly reveal. "Thus Jesus brings us into conflict," he confesses, "with social duties to which we all wish to cling."(59) He takes no account at all of the three facts which have just been referred to(60) as governing compliance with Jesus' teaching.

These facts, when properly attended to and allowed for, show how utterly baseless is the prevalent belief that to adopt the view of Jesus' teaching advocated in these pages is to ensure the immediate collapse of one state or another and to hand society over to the control of any rascals who are strong enough to tyrannize over their fellows. When that pragmatic motive is shown to be based on a misapprehension, no ground will remain for withholding, from our Lord's prohibition of the infliction of injury upon our neighbour, that obedience which all Christian people willingly admit must be accorded to his more general precepts of truthfulness, service, and love.

The interim-ethic theory is, as we have said, the last fortress of militarism on Christian soil. Driven from that stronghold, it has no choice but to take refuge over the border. Its apologists eventually find

 

58. pp. 178f., 202f.

 

 

 

 

 

59. p. 163 (italics mine).

 

60. See above, pp. 42 ff.

 

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that they have no option but to argue on grounds inconsistent with the supremacy of Christianity as a universal religion or as a final revelation of God. Most of the arguments we hear about 'the lesser of two evils,' 'living in an imperfect world,' 'untimely virtues,' and so on, reduce themselves in the last analysis to a renunciation of Christianity, at least for the time being, as the real guide of life.

In the fierce agony of the times, the inconsistency is unperceived by those who commit it; or, if it is perceived, the sacrifice of intellectual clearness becomes part of the great sacrifice for which the crisis calls. But he, to whose words men have so often fled when the organized Christianity of the hour appeared to have broken down or at any rate could not solve the riddle or point the way, will, when the smoke has cleared from their eyes, be found to possess after all the secret for which the human race is longing; and the only safe 'Weltpolitik' will be seen to lie in simple and childlike obedience to him who said: "Happy are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth."

 
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Arrangement of the remaining Material

In chalking out the main divisions of our subject from this point onwards, it is not proposed to give the first place to any set of chronological landmarks between the death of Jesus about 29 A.D. and the triumph of Constantinus about 313 A.D. This does not mean that the Christian attitude to war underwent no change in the course of that long period; but such changes as there were it will be convenient to study within subdivisions founded on the subject-matter rather than on the lapse of time.

The material--excluding the final summary and comments--falls naturally into two main divisions, firstly, the various forms in which the Christian disapproval of war expressed itself, such as the condemnation of it in the abstract, the emphasis laid on the essential peacefulness of Christianity, the place of gentleness and non-resistance in Christian ethics, the Christians' experience of the evils of military life and character, and their refusal to act as soldiers themselves; and secondly, the various forms of what we may call the Christian acceptance or quasi-acceptance of war, ranging from such ideal realms as Scriptural history, spiritual warfare, and so on, right up to the actual service of Christians in the Roman armies.(61) When we have examined these two complementary phases of the subject, we shall be in a position to sum up the situation--particularly the settlement involved in the Church's alliance with Constantinus, and to offer a few general observations on the question as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

61. The reader is reminded that the dates of the early Christian authors and books quoted and events referred to are given in the chronological table at the beginning of the book, in order to avoid unnecessary explanations and repetitions in the text, and that with the same object full particulars of works quoted are given in another list, the references in the footnotes being mostly in an abbreviated form.