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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT PEACE?

In the Republic of South Africa, some ecumenical theologians occupy themselves with the question: How can we best establish peace? In answer, some advocate revolutionary violence. Others advocate "non-violent" activism such as that outlined in the recent Methodist proposals for a "Peace Church." Significantly, both factions pursue the same aims as secular "liberation movements" who want to build a "peaceful, democratic, socialist" South Africa. Such church efforts to bring about "a peaceful, socialist state," however, are nothing new. During the Reformation, the so-called "Anabaptist Movement" was composed of two main factions with one similar goal. One faction was dedicated to "non-violent action," the other to revolutionary violence. Both groups' aim was to establish the kingdom of peace on earth. What they meant was a "caring," communal government in which each person was an absolute equal. "In Christ," they taught, "there was no male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek. All were one." There were to be no divisions or groups in their visionary community. Peace, to them, came when privilege and wealth were equalised and held in common. Inequality, they taught, is the cause of war!

During the Reformation, this "just, democratic, socialist" ideology led to the bloody "Peasants’ Rebellion" in Germany instigated by the Anabaptist revolutionary wing. Another result was the capture and violent collectivisation of the German town of Munster. The Reformers fought valiantly against this false doctrine.

Human Heart-Sin Causes War, Not Structural Division
The Bible opposes this doctrine in its clear teaching. Mankind's open rebellion against God and His Law is the cause of war. "From whence come wars and fightings? Come they not hence from your lusts that war in your members?" (Jms. 3:13- 4:6). The rebellious "foolishness of man perverts his life, yet his heart rages, blaming the Lord!" (Prov. 19:3). Theft, rape, poverty, evil, injustice and war come from our own hearts (Matt. 15:18-19), yet unbelieving men blame "unjust and divisive structures." By this they mean the free enterprise system of private property divided up among individuals! Their ideal is non-divided, communally owned property. They forget that God guaranteed this private property system in the 8th and 10th Commandments. Christ upheld it in his parables (Matt. 25:14-30; 21:33f; 20:1-16). Thus these "unjust, divisive structures" cannot be the cause of war. Indeed to destroy private property, a form of theft, is to cause war!

When God raised up Jehu to destroy the wicked Jezebel, someone asked him whether he had come in peace. He replied, "How long can there be peace as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of Jezebel abound?" (2 Kin. 9:22). The wicked "false prophets" are always crying "peace, peace" but there never will be peace for them in the world because God hates them and their sin (Is. 57:20-21; Jer. 6:14, 8:11). They and all their compatriots "don't know the way of peace because there is no justice [based on God's Law] in their tracks" (Is. 59:7-8; Rom. 3:9ff). God wars against them and asks His just servants in the civil government to act against them as well. There is a war on. It is to be fought both with the "high praises of God" - the Gospel - and the "two-edged sword ... [of judicial] vengeance" (Ps. 149:5-9).

Civil Government Alone Has the Sword of Justice
It is true that "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). This verse, however, is so often falsely taken to mean that no Christian can ever "use the sword." However, in condemning the use of the sword, Christ actually was referring to "... bloodthirsty and deceitful men" who "will not live out half their days" (Ps. 55:23). Thus when Christ was speaking about the "sword," He did not reject its use by God-instituted civil government (Rom. 13:1-6). "All governing authorities," said the Lord's Apostle, Paul, "are established ... [and] ordained by God." God delegated to these "rulers" His authority to govern in His justice, under His Law (Rom. 13:1-2). God delegated to them - not the individual - the right of "vengeance" and "[judicial] wrath" in the use of the "sword." Thus, they are His "servants" - willing or not - for our good. The result of the "good" they are to bring, and for which we are to pray, is "peace and tranquillity" in the land (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Because God delegated his "wrath" to the civil authorities, there is therefore to be no peace for the lawless (Is. 48:22). God's peace comes first internally when people submit to the transforming grace of our Lord (Is. 26:1-4). That peace then must proceed outwards to the obedience to and enforcement of God's good Law - moral and civil (Rom. 3:19-31; 8:1-8; 13:8-10). When humanist and socialist manipulators enforce their self-wise, man-made law, disorder and social conflict becomes inevitable. This brings God's judgment upon society. The present wave of inflation, crime, broken families, venereal disease, and child abuse are the evidence!

The use of force within the framework of God's law by the civil government is of a totally different moral quality than the violence used by revolutionaries to overthrow a government! A civil government has the God-given right and duty to protect its citizens and subjects by the use of the "war sword." God's Law mandates the destruction of those revolutionary organizations which unjustly war against the Republic of South Africa in whatever land they may dwell. Ehud, the Judge, is an excellent example of this! When the wicked are destroyed by God's reign through godly men, peace reigns in the land (Is. 9:7; Prov. 11:10, 20:26, 28:12, 28, 29:2).

In summary, our Lord taught that a wise and humble man who has learned to control his temper and tongue - to be a peacemaker - is the man who will live long in the land (Ps. 37; Matt. 5:5, 9). He will not die early because of an evil life style (Ps. 34:15 cited in 1 Pet. 3:10-12; Jms. 3:13-18; Prov. 3:1-2). The "sword" of vengeance is not to be used by the individual. "Wrath" should be left to the Lord and the civil authorities. In the meantime, we are to love our enemies instead of striking back in hate and revenge. The Sermon on the Mount, then, supports and does not contradict the Old Testament ethic (Matt. 5:17ff; Rom. 12:17-21: Paul quotes that Sermon and cites Deut. 32:35 and Prov. 25:21-22 as support).

The Gospel Does Not Prohibit Self-Defence
In their zeal, "peace" Theologians want to prohibit Christians from participating in any Establishment structures and ideologies, or in its use of force. The reason they give is that the Establishment in this old world is cursed with division. Only structures promoting "democratic," communal unity are good and blessed by God! These theologians, then, take away the right of self-defence. This often brings tragic consequences. The slaughter of Anabaptist missionaries on the communal New Adam farm in Zimbabwe is a case in point. These believers refused arms and even police protection because, they said, "God will care for us."

Both Testaments, however, mandate self-defence. A father has a right to strike and kill a night intruder in his house if he must. This is not murder (Ex. 22:2-3). A woman attacked in the city is expected to fight back and cry out (Dt. 22:24). David escaped from Saul, sword in hand. He used it on numerous occasions in self- defence, yet refused to take private vengeance on Saul. He chose to wait on God. Jesus told Peter to "buy a sword" (Lk. 22:36-38) - for defence - but rebuked him when he tried to exact his own vengeance. Jesus said that His Kingdom does not use the vengeful, revolutionary methods of this world. If it did, His servants would fight. On the contrary, His Kingdom comes from above, from the regenerating Spirit of God (John 18:36, 3:1ff). Even Paul said "if possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18). By this he implied that the time may come when we will have to defend ourselves against violence.

The Peace Churches' Spiritual Source Not from Christ
It is necessary to understand something of the anabaptistic doctrine to understand why they misread Christ. These "peace" theologians make a break between the ethic of the Old Testament and that of the New. The Old, they claim, was the time of law, wrath, violence, group, and division. The New was the time for peace, grace, communal unity, and love. Christ, they claim, came to produce a peaceful, undivided "New Humanity," "a Third Race" whose roots are not to be found in anything of this world - especially not ‘volk’ and fatherland. Patriotism is divisive, a form of "clinging to privilege." It is deemed a form of "hate" and thus, according to them, is a cause of war. They claim that the world, its governments, its Churches, and any ideology except that of communal love and unity are part of the great "Whore of Babylon." The Anabaptists to this day believe that they must "come out" from this Whore, "and be separate." During all this time, they have been working for a new united, international world order. To them this was symbolized byChrist's unifying Spirit at Pentecost. The division of humankind at Babel (Gen. 11), they claim, was a curse. Pentecost, thus, reverses the curse of Babel. In addition, they see "force" as part of this divided and cursed world. Thus none in the "peace churches" will have anything to do with force. This includes working in the police, army, government, or in an armament plant.

This teaching does not have its roots in Christian Theology or the Sermon on the Mount. After all, Jesus began His Sermon by stating that He had not come to destroy the Law of God but to correctly interpret it and then to do it for us (Matt. 5:17ff). To abolish the Law would be to trample on the blood of the New Covenant. In His life and death, He perfectly fulfilled a legal righteousness for us (Rom. 3:19-31; 5:15-19). Only in His legal righteousness can we be justified and accepted by the Father and have peace. Christ did not destroy the Law but satisfies it, writes it on our heart, and then fulfils it through us (Rom. 4:22-5:2, 8:1f; Heb. 8).

Anabaptistic teaching has its roots in Platonism. This is an ancient Greek philosophy that taught that all division and individualism was evil. Only a non-divided unity and communal wholeness was good. Marcion the gnostic heretic passed this teaching on to many in the Middle Ages. The very influential heretic, Joachim of Flora, taught something similar. The Old Testament, he claimed, was the Age of the Father, of violence, private property, and law. The coming of Christ heralded the Second Age. The Third Age, he said, was the Age of the Spirit, of liberation, peace, unity, and unselfish communal love. Thomas More, Hegel, Marx, and Engels taught virtually the same ideology but secularized it (cf. David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, 3rd ed. [Tyler, TX: ICE, 1985, pp. 321ff). Therefore, the teaching of the "peace churches'" is not Christian. It is more related to escapist, pantheistic, passivist "New Age" Buddhism and Hinduism than the Gospel. Actually, this teaching is the "religion of Babylon" condemned throughout the Bible! God does not call redeemed man to escape from this old world into a communal, international Utopia nor into a religious ecstasy. He calls upon believing man to transform the world by the discipling of all the peoples by teaching them to obey all that He commanded (Matt. 28:28-29).

Conclusion
Therefore, God's Kingdom of peace is not a Utopian, escape-from-reality, communal Neo-Babel. Nor is it a unitary South Africa. This Utopian ideology is in open rebellion to God's divisive Law and His divisive Gospel (Lk. 12:51). His Kingdom of peace, wholeness, and prosperity reigns wherever men are obedient to Christ and His moral and civil Law. His Kingdom sanctifies whatever "calling" a person may have, be it as a soldier, governor, executioner, judge, teacher, mother, or clerk. Christ, our peace, will not contradict what He said in the Bible. Thus the peace in His Body and His world is a divided peace, a peace between the groups and divisions He created! His is the wholeness, harmony, and peace of true diversity in real unity (Eph. 2:11f) like the peace in the Triune Godhead. Thank God for that!

Mark Kreitzer, May 1988.

Gospel Defence League
P. O. Box 587 Sea Point 8060
Cape Town South Africa
Tel/Fax: 021-510-6854



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