Syllabus for War & Pacifism in the Christian Tradition – (2 SemesterCredit Hours)

1994 Jefferis Kent Peterson, I

POL – E1
Course Description
Go to Course


Course Description:

Over the course of the centuries, no issue has been more difficult for Christians to settle in their walk with Christ, perhaps, than the issue of Christian involvement in war. From committed pacifists like the Moravians and Mennonites to the revolutionary Presbyterians, each group of believers has seen itself acting in accordance with biblical teaching. This course examines each of the 5 major various positions of the role of the Church in government in the light of their own biblical stances. Issues such as war, revolution, and non-violent resistance will all be examined critically.

Course Objective:

To enable the student to come to terms with his or her own views on the Christian involvement in war and pacifism by a thorough examination of relevant biblical passages, to be able to articulate those views towards a consistent theology for his/her personal walk with Jesus and, by extrapolation, for the Church of Christ as a whole.

Required Readings:

1. Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

2. Schaeffer, Francis A. A Christian Manifesto, Crossway Books, Westchester, Ill. 1981.

3. North, Gary. When Justice Is Aborted: Biblical Standards for Non-Violent Resistance. Dominion Press,Tyler, TX

4. Book Review: Kenneth Kaundas The Riddle of Violence, by Jefferis Kent Peterson.

5. Article: How Far Should We Go in Search of Social Justice?, By Larry Bishop and Diana Pavlac. Cornerstone Magazine, Vol. 11 Issue 61, pp 28-32.

6. Theological Declaration of Barmen

Course Requirements:

High School diploma, G.E.D., (for foreign, international, and advanced placement students, an equivalent degree or a demonstrated ability to write reference papers, with citations and footnotes) or exceptions granted by the instructor.The course is divided into six lecture segments. In these lectures, the instructor will give concepts and perspectives helpful in the analysis of the varying views toward war by the Church throughout the ages. The student will be asked to analyze these views in order to form his/her own Christian perspective.

3 papers will be required of increasing length. The final paper to consolidate ones own views with respect to a specific area of historical conflict will also be required (15 – 20 pages). Graphics can be included in the file if using cross platform media or sent separately as GIF, PICT, TIFF, EPS files (try to keep them small!).


The papers will be graded for content, style, and conformity to research standards as 20%, 30%, and 50% of the course total, respectively.

Week One:

Go to Course


Lecture 1: Intro and N. T. writings.

Christ and Culture: 1 -115 (Chps. 1-3)

Week Two:


Lecture 2: Biblical Attitudes Toward Civil Government

Christ and Culture: 116-256

Week Three:


Lecture 3: What happens when the Gov. is redeemed?

Book Review: Kenneth Kaundas The Riddle of Violence.

Article: How Far Should We Go in Search of Social Justice?

A Christian Manifesto: 1-88 (Chps. 1-6)


But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain, (Matthew 5:39-41, KJV).

Perhaps this passage is the most famous one used in defense of Christian pacifism under all circumstances. But in the Institutes of Biblical Law, Gary North writes an appendix on Biblical bribery. In this section, he states that Jesus commandment to turn the other cheek was given as counsel to a captive people: the Jews under Roman rule. (Roman soldiers, for example, could legally compel any non-Roman resident to carry his back pack 1 mile.) As such, Jesus knew the Jews and future Christians were powerless to resist the power of the Empire, and so that rather than fight back, he wished his disciples to show extra favor towards them, so that, presumably, it would go well for the disciples as they proclaimed the Kingdom of God. In Judea at the time, the nation was full of rebels and zealots who wished to throw off the Roman oppression through force of arms and a God-led rebellion. Jesus gave absolutely contradictory advice to those ill formed desires.

Norths conclusion: If justice were available and the Christian were not in danger of losing his life for resisting such evil by the existing, tyrannical government, the battered Christian should either bust him in the chops or haul him before the magistrate, and possibly both.


Using commentaries on this passage that both support and contradict this interpretation, write a 5 to 7 page paper analyzing the implications for this passage in relationship to a consistent theology of pacifism: does this passage apply? Draw your own conclusions as well and defend them. Use standard citations and bibliography to note your sources.

Week 4:


Lecture 4: Just War Theory

A Christian Manifesto: 89-138 (Chps. 6-10)

Gary Norths Letter to Paul Hill:”When Justice Is Aborted: Biblical Standards for Non-Violent Resistance”

Week 5:


Lecture 5: A Gov. turned from its divine purpose?

Theological Declaration of Barmen


7 to 10 page where to online paper. Use citations and bibliograhpy.

Compare violence against abortion clinics and clinic personnel to the French Resistance to Nazi Occupation during World War II. Was the French resistance movement a legitimate biblical response from your perspective. What similarities or differences do you see between that and violence against abortion clinics? (Note that the Vichy Government, was a government installed by Germany and of questionable moral status, however, it was very similar to Herods government of Palestine under Roman occupation.)

Week 6:

Lecture 6: An Alternative to War?


15 to 20 page paper:

Draw a conclusion from your course of study as to where you stand on the issue of War and Pacifism in your obedience to Christ. Defend your conclusions! In your paper evaluate:

a) would the response or position you take vary depending upon your calling in life; for e.g., if you were called to be an evangelist, would you respond differently in similar circumstances than if you were called to be a policeman. Or would your position be the same no matter what?

b) relate your position to your denominational stance, if applicable, or your local churchs beliefs.

c) If you are a U.S. citizen, evaluate whether U. S. involvement in an historic or contemporary conflict, like Bosnia or the Revolutionary War or the Civil War, is/was biblically justifiable from your perspective; or if not a U.S. citizen, comment on your own countrys significant involvement in a war or colonial expansion from that same perspective.


Selected Bibliography

Berkhof, Hendrikus. Christ and the Powers. Translated by John Yoder. Scottdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1962.

Bishop, Larry and Pavlac, Diana. How Far Should a Christian Go in Search of Social Justice? Cornerstone Magazine, Vol. 11 Issue 61, pp 28-32.

Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 Vols. Edited by John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford L. Battles. Philadelphia: West minster Press, 1960.

Dickinson, W. Croft, editor. John Knoxs History of the Reformation in Scotland, 2 Vol. Philosophical Library, 1950.

Greaves, Richard L. Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation: Studies in the Thought of John Knox . Christian University, 1980.

Guthrie, C.J., editor. The History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland Written by John Knox . Banner of Truth Trust, 1898, 1982.

Johnson, James Turner. Just War Tradition And The Restraint Of War : A Moral And Historical Inquiry. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1981.

Hallie, Philip Paul. Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed : The Story Of The Village Of Le Chambon And How Goodness Happened There. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.

Harnack, Adolph. Militia Christi, The Christian Religion and the Military in the First Three Centuries, Translated by David M. Gracie. Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1981.

Hauerwas, Stanley. A Community of Character: Toward A Constructive Christian Social Ethic. Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1981.

Kaunda, Kenneth. The Riddle of Violence. Edited by Colin M. Morris. San Fran.: Harper and Row, 1980.

Kelsay, John and Johnson, James Turner Just War And Jihad : Historical And Theoretical Perspectives On War And Peace In Western And Islamic Traditions. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

King, Martin Luther. Strength to Love, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963, 1981.

_________.Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, New York: Harper & Row, 1958.

_________.The Trumpet of Conscience. New York, Harper & Row, 1967.

_________.Why We Cant Wait, New York: Mentor, 1963-64.

Knox, John. The Works of John Knox, 6 volumes. Collected and edited by David Laing. Edinburgh, J. Thin, 1854-95 [v.1, 1895] New York, AMS Press, 1966.

Kyle, Richard G. The Mind of John Knox. Coronado, 1984.

Loane, Marcus, L. Makers Of Religious Freedom In The Seventeenth Century: Henderson, Rutherford, Bunyan, Baxter. [1st ed.] Grand Rapids, Eerdmans,1961.

Macgregor, Geddes. The Thundering Scot; a Portrait of John Knox. London, Macmillan, 1958.

Mason, Roger, editor, John Knox on Rebellion . Cambridge, 1994.

McCrie, Thomas, 1772-1835. The life of John Knox: New edition. Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood and sons, 1850.

Morrison, Clinton. The Powers That Be: Earthly Rulers and Demonic Powers In Romans 13:1-7. Naperville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, Inc., 1960.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Nature and Destiny of Man, 2 Vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964.

North, Gary. When Justice Is Aborted: Biblical Standards for Non-Violent Resistance. Dominion Press, P. O. Box 7999, Tyler, TX 75711.

O’Brien, William Vincent. The Conduct of Just And Limited War . New York, N.Y. : Praeger, 1981.

Ramsey, Paul. Speak Up For Just War Or Pacifism : A Critique Of The United Methodist Bishops’ Pastoral Letter “In Defence Of Creation” Epilogue by Stanley Hauerwas. University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988.

Rushdoony, Rousas John. The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co, 1973.

_________. The Just War: Force And Political Responsibility. Lanham, MD : University Press of America, 1983.

Schaeffer, Francis A. A Christian Manifesto, Crossway Books, Westchester, Ill. 1981.

Tertullian. On Idolatry, chp. 19 (See The Ante-Nicene Fathers 3:73).

Theological Declaration of Barmen

Tucker, Robert W. The Just war; A Study In Contemporary American Doctrine. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, [1960].

Rushdoony, Rousas John. The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co, 1973.

Discover more from The Scholars Corner

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.