It Is Not Lawful for Me to Fight: Early Christian Attitudes toward War, Violence, and the State (Christian Peace Shelf) Paperback – 1 Sep 2009
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About the Author
Alan Kreider (PhD, Harvard University) is professor emeritus of church history and mission at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. For many years he lived in England, where he was director of the London Mennonite Centre and later director of the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. Kreider has authored several books, including "The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom "and "Worship and Mission after Christendom".
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was not born in the US of A. I come from pentecostal upbringing (which mostly makes sense to me to this day).
Before I came to US I assumed all protestants were like pentecostals and baptists of my country. That turned out to be naive view.
Whatever the case, it would be considered very unChristian to give oaths (which military service demands) and take up weapons. In fact protestant Christians of soviet era would face disciplinary measures. Now first thing that comes to your mind is of course perhaps the idea this this resistance was moral because soviet communism is of the devil and capitalism is from God. So, being in american military is working for God to spread democracy. Questions of this sort (economics) is of course worth pondering, but to me, basically not sufficient to justify the position taken by majority of american protestant churches (catholics and eastern churches I don't mention since they have even more baggage)...
Author attempts to defend a thesis that Christianity of the first 3 centuries were pacifistic. Only after marriage of Church with state it adopted few weird stands (to which I would wholeheartedly disagree):
-- differentiation and distribution of roles and privileges between laity and clergy, where clergy were exempt from military service while laity progressively, from being permitted to serve, even to being basically obligated..
-- acceptance of military service as being acceptable and normal
I think he does good job, and indeed seems like thesis is defensible and was defended. To get more details and become a bit more familiar with writings on the subject from that period, one will have to read the book.
Here's the content:
Ch. 1. - The Political and Social Setting
Ch. 2. - The Theological and Religious Setting
Ch. 3. - The Christian Attitude
Ch. 4. - Christian Soldiers and Soldier Saints
Ch. 5. - Antimilitarism - The Church's First Official Position - and Its Withering Away
Ch. 6. - The Faith of Constantine and the Theology of Eusebius
Ch. 7. - Conclusion: Christian Patience and Hope
Honestly, get this book instead of, or at least in addition to, the Megiddo - Omega Code 2 or similar Christian fictions (where American president slays physical enemies of some sort of geo-political-geo-spiritual dimension(?)). I am not against fiction, and I have both Omega code DVDs. I simply humbly wish to let you see the road Christianity traveled from being wholly pacifistic to being what it is in late 20th and early 21st century.
Few quotes I liked from the text:
"In his Homily on St. Lucian, St. John Chrysostom observed that the martyrs had responded to all the magistrate's questions with the identical phrase, 'I am a Christian.' He then commented, 'He who answers thus has declared everything at once - his country, profession, family; the believer belongs to no city on earth but to heavenly Jerusalem." p. 97-98
"Tertullian declared that since the Christians were sons of peace, they could not attempt to avenge themselves for wrongs which might have be done to them personally nor even to intervene to avenge the wrongs which were done to others. He also indicated that, if the Christians had been willing to defend themselves by arms, their numbers would certainly have ensured their victory; but, 'in our doctrine we are given ampler liberty to be killed rather than to kill'." p.215
[quoting Origen] "Concerning the Christians, on the other hand, we say that they have taught not to defend themselves against their enemies; and because they have kept the laws which command gentleness and love of men, on this account they have received from God that which they could not have succeeded in doing if they had been given the right to make war, even though they may have been quite able to do so." p.217
and the quote from which title of this book is derived,
"Hitherto, I have served you as a soldier; allow me now to become a soldier to God. Let the man who is to serve you receive your donative. I am a soldier of Christ; it is not lawful for me to fight." p. 94