February 19, 2018 Matthew

Why I Am Not a Pacifist – C.S. Lewis

“Looking at the statement which is my immediate authority as an Anglican, the Thirty-Nine Articles, I find it laid down in black and white that “it is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons and serve in the wars.” Dissenters may not accept this; then I can refer them to the history of the Presbyterians, which is by no means Pacifist. Papists may not accept this; then I can refer them to the ruling of Thomas Aquinas that “even as princes law-fully defend their land by the sword against disturbance from within, so it belongs to them to defend it by the sword from enemies without.” Or if you demand patristic authority, I give you St. Augustine, “If Christian discipleship wholly reprobated war, then to those who sought the counsel of salvation in the Gospel this answer would have been given first, that they should throw away their arms and withdraw themselves altogether from being soldiers. But what was really said to them was, ‘Do violence to no man and be content with your pay/ When he bade them to be content with their due soldier’s pay, he forbade them not to be paid as soldiers.” But of checking individual voices, there would be no end. All bodies that claim to be Churches—that is, who claim apostolic succession and accept the Creeds—have constantly blessed what they regarded as righteous arms. Doctors, bishops, and popes—including, I think, the present Pope [Pius XII]— have again and again discountenanced the Pacifist position. Nor, I think, do we find a word about Pacifism in the apostolic writings, which are older than the Gospels and represent, if anything does, that original Christendom whereof the Gospels themselves are a product.

The whole Christian case for Pacifism rests, there-fore, on certain Dominical utterances, such as “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” I am now to deal with the Christian who says this is to be taken without qualification. I need not point out—for it has doubtless been pointed out to you before—that such a Christian is obliged to take all the other hard sayings of Our Lord in the same way. For the man who has done so, who has on every occasion given to all who ask him and has finally given all he has to the poor, no one will fail to feel respect. With such a man I must suppose myself to be arguing; for who would deem worth answering that inconsistent person who takes Our Lord’s words a la rigueur when they dispense him from a possible obligation and takes them with latitude when they demand that he should become a pauper.”

Source: The Weight of Glory – C._S._Lewis

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