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Monday, 15 June 2015

A review of Doug Kutilek’s article on Christian Pacifism and Non-Resistance

I have earlier reviewed Peter Hammond’s take on this question; Doug Kutilek has, I believe, a more balanced approach, but it remains to be seen how it will fare under my scrutiny. I earlier reviewed an article by Doug Kutilek here. This article was printed in his most recent issue of As I See It, which has yet to go online at In fact, none of last year's issues have yet been put online, so don't hold your breath. But a copy of the article can presently be seen here.

From a quick glance at the title, one would naturally conclude that Mr. Kutilek knows the difference between Pacifism and Non-Resistance. Alas, he treats them merely as half-segments of a longer phrase, without distinguishing the two. All he distinguishes is between the Old Testament teaching on retributive violence, and that of the New Testament. The only question he sets out to answer is, do the OT laws still apply?

He doesn’t get off to a very good start—citing James 5:7 when he actually has verse six in mind. Verse six talks about the (presumably poor) righteous man being oppressed by the evil rich man, and not resisting him. Aha—this takes us at once back to our previous review of Mr. Kutilek, when he attempted to prove that Psalm 12: 6 was not, as many suppose, referring to God protecting His Word, but rather to God protecting, as verse five of that psalm indicates, the poor who are being oppressed—presumably by the evil rich. Now, if Mr. Kutilek won’t link his exegesis of Psalm twelve with that of James five, then we shall. Here we have two verses—one in the Old Testament, and one in the New—which both appear to reference an oppressed poor person crying out to God for protection from his rich oppressor. Yet God’s approach in the Old Testament is not to provoke the poor man to violence, but to promise to protect him. If God would do this in the old dispensation, how much more so in the new?

Indeed, Doug Kutilek does find harmony between the testaments. He quotes Jesus quoting Exodus 22 to show that the Old Testament model was intended not to encourage retaliation, but to curtail it. He quotes Romans 12:20-21 as encouragement to love and be kind to our enemies. So far, he’s right in step with the doctrine of non-resistance. But this is as far as he is willing to carry it; his criterion for deciding whether to submit to one’s persecutors, or to take up violence against them, seems to be strictly utilitarian, and consists of lovingly submitting to persecution only if hopelessly outnumbered—as Israel was under the Romans, who could compel any able-bodied man to carry their rucksacks a mile. Thus, Jesus’ admonition to his outarmed and outnumbered disciples not to resist his arrest.

Now, it is significant that Doug’s son served as an infantry commander in the American forces occupying Afghanistan, and often found himself enforcing US foreign policy through the barrel of a gun, until he was himself disabled by a bullet to the leg. Bear that in mind when Doug writes, “Jesus’ words, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” . . . seems[sic] to address specifically those who as a matter of course resort to violence to force their will on others (robbers, gangs, bandits, and the like)." It would appear that the Kutileks exegete Jesus’ words to apply only to those who take up arms for their own personal benefit, rather than for the elusive benefits of a state.

As in the case of former South African Army commando Peter Hammond, we see that the author has a personal stake in parting ways with the non-resisters once the rubber meets the road. Should he accept Jesus’ words at face value, he condemns his own son as a murderer. Or does he? At this point in his essay he attempts to turn the tables on the non-resistors, to show their position as beset with hypocrisy: “Some pacifists and ‘non-resisters’ would insist that Jesus’ words are plain: ‘Do not resist an evil person,’ (Matthew 5:39), which they would take to mean at all times and under all circumstances, that is, we should never defend ourselves with physical force, weapons, etc. no matter what. However, if they really took literally and at face value the admonition (v. 39)--‘Do not resist an evil person,’ then they would never lock their houses or cars, remove their car keys from the ignition switch, or conceal their bank ATM password. And of course they do not do these things. They do resist evil persons’ in matters involving property crimes. And if one may legitimately resist evil in matters of property, how much more may one resist evil when threatened in one’s health, well-being, safety and life?” 

First of all, Mr. Kutilek is committing a exegetical fallacy here, by ignoring other biblical uses of the same word. The word translated ‘resist’ in Matthew 5 is anqisthmi, which is translated as ‘withstand’ in Ephesians 6:13 (KJV): “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Clearly God wants His people to resist evil on the spiritual and moral planes; concealing one’s house or car keys—or bank codes—is resisting evil; not physically, through threat of violence, but by avoiding what is called in legal terms “an attractive nuisance,” to avoid placing temptation in the way of an evil person, easily drawn away by his own lusts (James 1:14). 

Now it is that Mr. Kutilek shows his ignorance of the crucial difference between pacifism—which rejects the biblical authority of a government to wield the sword—and non-resistance, which affirms it. The question then raised is, could it be right for a Christian to participate in the sword-wielding activities of the government (as did Peter Hammond and Captain Kutilek)? Doug naturally says “yes,” and points to several biblical examples in his defense. Alas, neither the soldiers who questioned John, nor Cornelius, are ever depicted as doing anything militant. Nor was the centurion of Galilee, in whom Christ found such faith. Significantly, the only soldiers mentioned in the New Testament as doing anything that involved the use of arms were those charged with hunting down and killing the Christ Child, those involved in his arrest and execution, and those who guarded Paul the Apostle following his arrest. If being commended for one’s faith justifies one’s normal occupation, then the soldiers mentioned in Matthew 27:54, who, as Luke records, “glorified God,” justified their occupation of crucifying an innocent man, whilst gambling over his possessions. Would Doug Kutilek commend his son for doing that?

Mr. Kutilek takes another exegetical leap in his last point, “There are times when threats and violence are imposed on us unprovoked, and in such cases we are not required to be “at peace with all men” (in reference to Romans 12:18). Of course it is not required of us—we cannot be at peace with anyone who is unwilling to be at peace with us. Paul’s entreaty here simply means that, insofar as the peacefulness is ours to bring about, we should do so. We can’t be held responsible for a war which someone else declares. But neither do we have any biblical responsibility to fight back. On the contrary, Scripture insists that we should leave that up to God, either through His direct agency, or through His ordained ministers who bear the sword not in vain. And, failing that, we must joyfully submit to any persecution suffered for His Name’s sake, with an attitude of love for our persecutors. To fight back bodily against such persecution—or even to participate as one of those ordained ministers in wielding the sword against evil—is neither commanded, nor ever commended, on the pages of the New Testament.


  1. I believe there are times when a Christian needs to bear arms to defend the innocent and kill evil men. The Lord judges the earth through famine, disease, earthquakes, violent weather and war---and, of course, people are killed. There are just wars: when diplomacy doesn't work, bullets will.

    "Magistrate's Protection of the Innocent"

  2. I disagree, Tim. But it's interesting that as he hung on the cross, beholding the soldiers who had crucified him gambling over his clothing, he asked, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." These were the very men who, hours afterward, acknowledged his divinity. Jesus did not approve of their profession, but he still offered them forgiveness for practicing it.


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