“Confessional” nonviolence and the unity of the Church:
Can Christians square the circle?

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 34, no. 1 (2014): 125-44.


Both within and among churches that have traditionally held to just war teaching, various formulas in the last 50 years have allowed for the recognition that Christian pacifism is a respectable tradition alongside just war. It is not obvious, however, how historic peace churches can officially reciprocate with the same kind of ecumenical generosity by recognizing the legitimacy of the just war tradition. To do so, after all, would seem to require giving up their very claim to the confessional status of nonviolence, thus undermining their very identities as historic peace churches. Glen Stassen’s well-accepted exegesis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount opens up an unexpected path out of this impasse. For if he is right that the sermon is organized around a consistent succession of triads in which Jesus first named “traditional righteousness,” then diagnosed a “vicious cycle,” then presented a “transforming initiative” for escaping that cycle, then the relationship between just war and pacifism can be reconceived in entirely fresh ways.

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