Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Reformed Pacifism

Bryan Peters, who runs the Young Evangelical blog, is beginning a series on “Reformed Pacifism.” Bryan is an evangelical American Baptist who considers himself both a Calvinist and a pacifist and is trying to show how the two parts of his identity fit together.  Although I think his definition of the Reformed tradition is too narrow (he rules out such prominent Reformed pacifists as Ellul, Trocme, and Lassere as not part of the main Reformed tradition), the series should be extremely interesting. As I said, I think Bryan construes the tradition too narrowly: Reformed pacifists include Jean-Michel Hornus, Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Martin, Charles Delizy, Eduourd Theis, Henri Roser, G. H. C. MacGregor, D. M. MacKinnon,  G. J. Heering, George A. Buttrick, Nels F. H. Ferre, Maurice McCracken, George H. Hunsinger, Beyers Naude, Allan Boesak, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (U.S.A.), the United Reformed Peace Fellowship (U.K.). Not to mention such Reformed theology bloggers as Kim Fabricius, D.W. Congdon, Ben Myers (I think), Chris of Disruptive Grace, Aric Clark, etc.   But I think Bryan is referring to conservative Calvinists:  Those who see themselves as being able to affirm the Synod of Dordt, or the Westminster Confession, or, perhaps, as the heirs of the Hodges and Warfield.  Even in this narrower definition of “Reformed,” I think there have been more pacifists than Bryan seems to acknowledge in this first post in the series, but the series definitely bears watching closely. Those who are Calvinists and challenge Christian pacifism from within that tradition should pay close attention as should pacifists (especially Anabaptist-influenced folks like myself, or Franciscan or Quaker types) who are suspicious of the Reformed tradition because of its historic opposition to nonviolence, should also follow the series.  It promises to be a very interesting series.

Maybe others from other theological traditions would like to respond:  A Wesleyan argument for pacifism, an Orthodox pacifism, a Processs theology pacifism, Lutheran pacifism, Boston Personalist pacifism, etc.  The Anabaptists and the Quakers and the Franciscans have done this often enough.  I am not convinced that any and all theologies will support gospel nonviolence equally.  But given that the gospel commands of peacemaking are so clear, it would seem that any theology which undermines that must, at least, be in serious need of revision, right?


May 2, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, nonviolence, pacifism, Reformation, theology | 20 Comments