Pacifism is Not ‘Doing Nothing’

Within a discussion of war, it is vital to keep a strong theology of God’s providence, which we have seen prominently throughout our biblical theology. A Christian’s refusal to participate in war is not the same as letting evil roam the earth unpunished. Indeed, the Old Testament wars, and Romans 12, highlight the fact that God will use the nations to achieve his judgment. O’Donovan is right that a Christian must not do nothing when faced with evil, and to emphasise participation in God’s providence.[1] His error is in assuming that participation involves enacting the judgment ourselves. Instead, the biblical model for participation in God’s providence is prayer. As we have considered, prayer is powerful. We have been promised that God hears our prayers, and that they are effective.[2] When faced with international evil, the correct response is to pray for God’s intervention and his justice.

The other faithful response that we are given in the face of evil is preaching God’s word. From Elijah’s interactions with Ahab, through Isaiah, Daniel, and to Jesus and the Apostles, we have been given dozens of examples of the power of God’s proclaimed word to convert and to judge. In all the examples that we have seen of non-resistance in the Bible, the effective action was always prayer, proclamation, and faith in God’s providence. This response is not ‘doing nothing’. Far from it, it is engaging the most powerful forces in the universe. Compared to prayer and proclamation, mere military might is foolishness.


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