CHAPTER SEVEN
    

                    A THEOLOGICAL METAPHYSIC
                           OF PACIFISM
    


          7-1.  I have assumed that God is the ultimate source of all good, and that God is
        universally good, or omnibenevolent.
              If this assumption is valid, then it follows logically enough that God is incapable
        of any evil thing, including simple retribution, for retribution implies not only requiting
        good for good, but evil for evil.  That is, divine justice is not in the least retributive
        but is instead totally good and thus always forgiving.  Thus do we see the solution to
        the ancient riddle as to how God can be both infinitely just and infinitely merciful at
        the same time: God's justice is mercy, forgiveness, and everything else that follows
        from its core of unconditional benevolence.  All of this follows from the assumption
        of the omnibenevolence of God.
              God, as the author of all good and of no evil, would be as incapable of doing evil
        as he would of lying.  An omnibenevolent God would thus be constrained to use only
        good means in order to achieve his good ends.  God could therefore never retribute
        evil for evil, even for the sake of the most perfect end: God could not retribute evil
        for evil, even if the offense were against himself or against the most innocent of his
        children.  
              Does this imply limitations of divine power?  Does the claim of the
        omnibenevolence of God contradict the idea of an omnipotent God?  The answer is
        in the negative, but only if it is also assumed that good is more powerful than evil: in
        foregoing evil means, God relinquishes no power, for evil means do not have the
        power to promote lasting good.
        
          7-2.  A statist, retributive conception of justice, in comparison with divine justice,
        must entail the requirement to requite good for good acts, and evil for evil acts.  So
        conceived, God and the state embody different conceptions of justice.
              The retributive state cannot be the agent of the non-retributive God, for nothing
        that acts in an evil capacity could be ordained of a God who cannot do any evil.
        Moreover, since by definition there can be only one sovereign, we must choose
        between divine and statist conceptions of justice, and thus between allegiance to God
        and to the violent, retributive state.
              Along the same line, belief in a non-retributive God forces one to reconceptualize
        the concept of a just peace: a just peace is one wherein the social order is achieved
        and maintained only by just means.  Since the conception of "just" or "justice" used
        here is a non-retributive conception, then the idea of "just means" would therefore
        preclude any act of war, violence, or threat of such.
        
          7-3.  From metaphysical assumptions we can go directly to ethical conclusions.
        We can also go to the central problems of political theory, such as the morality of war
        and punishment, or the problem of the conflict between legal and moral obligation.
        From a divine metaphysic, that is, we may derive conclusions of an ethical nature
        relating to the larger society:
              First, since war and punishment are inherently evil, we must conclude that they
        could not be sanctioned by the God of perfect goodness.
              Second, since sovereignty is indivisible, we must choose divinely-sanctioned
        individual conscience over the laws of the state as the locus of our moral obligation.
              Third, since retributive means are inherently unjust, a just peace is a peace that is
        achieved and maintained by perfectly non-retributive means.
              I have said earlier that a secular reduction of Christian ethics is impossible.  Since
        political philosophy is a branch of ethics or moral philosophy, I hope that the remarks
        above indicate as well that a secular reduction of the problems of political philosophy
        is likewise impossible.
        
          7-4.  In addition to the assumption of the omnibenevolence of God, I have also
        assumed in this work that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.  Defending this
        metaphysical claim is very difficult, even more difficult than defending the assumption
        of the omnibenevolence of God.     For the moment I only ask the sceptical
        reader to assume that Jesus believed that he was the Messiah.  Even the assumption
        that he so believed is not, however, without its problems: there is admittedly the
        possibility or even likelihood that those who might have embellished the story of his
        life with regard to incidentals also falsely attributed to Jesus religious claims that he
        did not make, or attributed to him powers that he did not have.
              It is therefore possible that one might try to develop a pacifist ethic independent
        of all claims about the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, while yet starting from the ethical
        insights attributed to Jesus of Nazareth.  This would be quite reasonable, of course,
        but the problem with such an approach is that some of the most powerful ethical
        messages in the New Testament are so intimately tied up with religious claims that the
        force of Jesus' ethical claims would be weakened greatly if one had to conclude that
        he did not believe in his own divinity.  
              For example, the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, "the
        foal of a beast of burden," loses all of its force if it is merely the story of a man
        choosing a donkey as his means of locomotion: the whole point of the story seems to
        have been that here was a man who not only believed that he was the Messiah, but
        who also believed that it was not appropriate for even the Messiah to ride into
        Jerusalem on the white steed of a conquering military hero--a ruler in the usual sense.
        Here was a conception of the Messiah, that is, as one who came not to conquer and
        destroy, but to save; not to rule in the conventional sense, but to serve (more
        precisely, to rule by serving).
              Another example would be the account in Matthew where Jesus is being defended
        with the sword by one of his disciples against the mob Judas has led into the Garden
        of Gethsemane.  Jesus is reputed to have said, "Put away your sword, for all who live
        by the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think that I could not pray to my Father
        to provide me with twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:52-53)  The interesting
        thing is that only the first part of this passage is typically quoted, whereas it in is the
        second part that Jesus clearly drives home the point that his methods are going to be
        different from those of all secular rulers.
              He might have said it another way without any loss of meaning: "If I am who I say
        I am, do you think that I could not be delivered from this unruly mob?  And, do you
        think, if force were the way that the world might be saved, that I could not muster as
        many troops as might be required?"  His deliberate choice not to use violence is here
        linked in the most direct way with a claim to his divinity: an all-powerful God could
        certainly have more destructive force at his disposal than all secular rulers, if such
        force were the means of saving the human race.
              If Jesus had not believed in his own divinity, then these two powerful passages--
        one involving his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and the other involving his
        repudiation of the sword--would not be included in the account of his life.  These two
        most powerful ethical messages against domination and violence, that is, are linked
        directly to theological claims.  Again one can see why no secular reduction of
        Christian ethics is possible without great loss of force of the teachings themselves.
        The conclusion is inescapable: if the accounts are even roughly accurate, Jesus
        definitely did at least believe that he was the Messiah.
        
          7-5.  It seems reasonable to conclude, as so many have done, that a person who
        actually believed himself to be the Messiah was either that which he claimed, or else
        that he was quite mad.  Therefore, if I have indeed offered a rational reconstruction
        of the political thought of Jesus of Nazareth, the question is whether the pacifistic
        belief system which I have attributed to him is also mad, the product of a deranged
        mind.
              That is, is it madness always to return good for evil, or to assume that God always
        does so as well?  The question is a reasonable one, given the obvious practical
        difficulties with the pacifist position.  One might, after all, conclude that one who
        offered opposing ideas, such as Nietzsche, was really sane while Jesus of Nazareth
        was utterly mad.
        
          7-6.  Why is Jesus of Nazareth not included in the usual anthologies of social
        and political philosophers?  Why are the secondary sources of Augustine, Aquinas,
        Luther, or Calvin included instead?  Perhaps my secularist colleagues could deign
        to answer this question.  Could it be because the latter four all justified the violent,
        coercive state and its practices of war and punishment, whereas Jesus was against the
        horrible practices that define the state?
              As I have tried to show, even the fragments of Jesus' thought which we have
        inherited demonstrate a very coherent underlying belief system, and there is no
        question but that these teachings have enormous relevance for the morality of the
        social practices which lie at the core of political theory.  Indeed, his teachings are a
        political theory, although one that is not held in wide repute among most political
        theorists: most political theorists are defenders of the barbaric practices of war and
        punishment.  Political theory in its most common manifestations is thus a very
        reactionary enterprise, and still political theorists marvel that they are not taken
        seriously in the mainstream of political science.
              Have we so conveniently pigeonholed religious questions that we have made the
        issue of the nature of God and his message irrelevant to all practical affairs?  Is the
        message of Nietzsche, whose works are in the sacred canon of political theory,
        more relevant to morality and public affairs than the message of Jesus of
        Nazareth?
        
          7-7.  I have affirmed belief in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth as the foundation
        of all other arguments since I believe that the true persuasive force is not to be found
        so much in the formal teachings of Jesus as in his example: what we ultimately want
        to know from trying to reconstruct his ideas is something about the personhood of
        Christ.
               The overall picture of Jesus of Nazareth that seems to emerge is that of a man so
        gentle and kind, and whose life and death are recounted in a manner so generally
        consistent with his teachings, that I find it difficult to believe that the story could have
        been fabricated (although I do believe there to be some historical inaccuracies in the
        accounts which have come down).
              This is not to say that it is inconceivable that either the teachings or the account
        of his deeds could have been fabricated.  If so, however, it seems unlikely that the
        teachings and the life could have meshed so perfectly.  There still remains the
        possibility, of course, that both the life and the teachings could have been fabricated.
        Yet, anyone who would have had the moral vision to conceive of such an ethical
        system and such a perfect life could not have had the moral depravity to have offered
        such a lie.
        
          7-8.  To the extent that the Christian ethical teachings support and complement the
        religious claims, it is not incorrect to say that both are defended here together, and
        I admit that it is not always clear which is assumption and which is conclusion.  Even
        so, I cannot deny that it could turn out to be the case that the specific ethical and
        religious claims might finally stand or fall separately.  All that I am saying here is that
        I doubt that that could ever be the case.  If I should turn out to be mistaken in my
        religious views, however, I still hope that the attempt to offer this particular version
        of an ethical system in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth will turn out to have had its
        uses, if only as a corrective for much of what is wrong with modern Christianity and
        its glib mixing of religious teachings with the more pervasive--and still dominant--civil
        religion.
        
          7-9.  If there is a God, then we should certainly want to know as much about that
        God as possible.  The problem of the epistemology of religious belief is a problem for
        another chapter, and so here I will simply say that we must assume something about
        the existence and nature of God if we are going to be able to live meaningful lives.
        Agnosticism risks nothing and everything at once: it is a cowardly approach to the
        existential experiment of life, the worst kind of fence-sitting in the face of a critical
        conflict of ideas and of choices for action.
              Surely even the most cynical sceptic must acknowledge that, if there is a God, that
        fact must be of some significance.  If God is the source of all goodness, we should
        certainly want to try to know God and emulate the divine goodness.  In our present
        condition, however, we do not even know to what spirit we belong; we think as
        human beings think, not as God thinks, and this impels us to tend to want to destroy
        our enemies rather than to assist, rescue, or redeem them.  If we would be guided by
        the Spirit of God, fully realizing our moral autonomy and self-control manifested in
        benevolent action, then surely we must try to learn something about the thoughts of
        God.  The Spirit of Peace cannot dwell in us, and thus guide us or cure us, if we do
        not think like God.
        
          7-10.  We must never lose sight of the linkage between spirit and thought: our
        motivations derive from our thoughts.  If we push aside the divine way of thinking,
        then our motivations are driven by unregulated passions and appetites.  Since these
        unregulated passions and appetites are the greatest threat to a peaceful order, we who
        would aspire to both a peaceful and a voluntary society must strive to know the mind
        of God, the thoughts of God, and to encourage others to do likewise.
              To what do we turn to know about God and to know the thoughts of God?
        
          7-11.  The truth about God and about ethics is not codified in the Bible: it is almost
        certainly trying to escape the pages of the Bible and the scholarly and ecclesiastical
        traditions which have created and stood guard over the Bible.  
              We must be careful not to confuse faith in God with faith in the Bible.  The Bible
        is sometimes, perhaps often, wrong.  God never is.  The Great Lie of most of
        organized religion is the claim that God inspired literally every word in the Bible.
        Although this claim is never adequately defended, it persists with a stubbornness
        which defies explanation.
              Could it be that persons do not want to think for themselves?  What if it should be
        the case that learning to do precisely that is the ultimate reason for the trials of this
        life?  When we see or endure evil for no apparent purpose, we must ask what is in the
        mind of God.  What, that is, is he trying to teach us in a particular situation?
              We may take comfort from the fact that he never desires to destroy us, but to
        salvage us from our errors and to restore us to happiness and wholeness.
        
          7-12.  An omniscient God, by definition, can never be wrong.  Yet, if God is never
        wrong, then he never has to change his mind: his will is eternal.  What then are we to
        make of the doctrine of two laws or "testaments," one old and one new?
              One cannot have it both ways: either God and his will (or law) are unchanging, or
        they are not.  If they are unchanging, then it is only human understanding of God and
        God's will which has changed.  Biblical inerrantism is thus most fundamentally at
        variance with the idea of an unchanging God: God, say the inerrantists, gave us two
        laws.     Is their God a God of shifting sand, or a reed blowing in the wind?  What kind
        of Rock is this, that metamorphoses over time?  What claim has it for being eternal
        if it does not differ from the physical creation which is all about us?
              The biblical inerrantists are fundamentally in error.
        
          7-13.  Biblical inerrantism is not the way that we know God or the thoughts of
        God.  Biblical inerrantism is a form of idolatry, for it absolutizes not belief in God or
        his will but belief in a particular, historically limited human conception of God and his
        will, specifically that found in the traditional reading of the Bible as a coherent and
        complete statement of the will of God.  
              It is precisely this kind of idolatry which allows the Bible to be used to justify the
        most reactionary of social practices and causes, not least of which are the institutions
        of war, punishment, and social exclusion or discrimination of all kinds.
              The doctrine of the so-called "just war" is one reactionary doctrine which is often
        buttressed by references to the wars of the Old Testament.  Persons of open minds
        cannot but see that many of the accounts of the Old Testament represent very primi-
        tive scientific, historical, and--most of all--theological conceptions.  Surely the same
        is true of the ethical conceptions contained there.
              It is no coincidence that these primitive ideas were resurrected and given
        theoretical justification during the Dark Ages.  The "just war" doctrine is one such
        medieval relic.
        
          7-14.  One cannot really simultaneously embrace the ethical teachings of both the
        Old and New Testaments without severe qualifications.  Nor can one reasonably
        suppose that the God of the Old Testament is, strictly speaking, the same God as that
        of the New Testament, except in the limited sense that the writers of both testaments
        were in search of the one true God.
              All that one can safely say is that the two "Laws" reflect two conceptions of God,
        conceptions that grew out of an evolving culture and which reflect evolving religious
        conceptions within and beyond that culture.
        
          7-15.  When one says that the law of God is simply the will of God, one wants to
        make a further point: this is not a law which, like secular law, provides for penalties
        if it is not obeyed.  Rather, the will of God is as a lighted path: if one chooses to get
        off of it, the fear and emptiness that one feels only impel one to want to find it again.
        God, ever faithful and benign, eternally holds forth the beacon to rescue and salvage
        us.
              God does not punish.  We punish ourselves, and never more so than when we try
        to punish others.
        
          7-16.  The will of God is so perfectly good that it is the way of Being, of life, of
        spiritual harmony rather than fear and emptiness.  
              Anything outside of the will and thoughts of God is really not anything at all: it is
        nothingness.  The hellish fear that we face when we face that nothingness is not from
        God.  Any such punishment of the soul is that which we inflict upon ourselves as a
        result of rejecting God and his life-giving will or thoughts.  It is never God's will that
        we should do this, much less that we should suffer this self-imposed horror.  God
        wills only that we should stop, repent of, such nonsense and enjoy again the benefits
        of his grace and redemption: life in its fullness, everlasting.
        
          7-17.  Need we fear losing permanent sight of God?  I do not think so.  Although
        we may turn away from God, he is always there when we have had enough of
        darkness and decide again that we want to know and find him.
              In a vast sea of emptiness, the light that is God always shines out in bright relief.
        God never hides himself--nor his Being and comfort from fear--from those who seek
        him and his refuge.  It takes a conscious, strong, and deliberate effort to block out the
        light which is the will of God, and even then it has a way of getting past our most
        stubborn defenses.  
              God seeks us out even when we seek to escape or renounce him and his will.
        There is no escaping God--or his redemption.  There is yet anguish enough in losing
        sight of God if only for a season, and no rational person would lightly dismiss the
        dangers of doing so, whatever may be the length of that hellish season.
        
          7-18.  If one claims that Jesus was indeed unique in his relationship to God the
        Father, then what one means is either that he was God in human form, or else that he
        was a child of God in a different sense than the rest of us are children of God--or
        both.
              The image which presents itself to us in either case is that of the germ of divine
        inspiration growing and learning in the child and man during his own lifetime, finally
        reaching perfection in thought and action (probably not on the Mount of Transfigura-
        tion but on the cross), then working through the rest of human history for the full
        human appreciation and acceptance of the significance of his views.  All of this is to
        say that Jesus was not born with perfect wisdom, even if he was God Incarnate, and
        he did not receive perfect wisdom in an instant.
              The implication of these simple claims is that Jesus' understanding must have been
        imperfect up until very nearly the end of his life.  If so, then it is up to us to try to
        make the same journey more or less on our own, guided not only by the trends and
        directions which are most manifest in Jesus' teachings, but by the indwelling Spirit of
        God in all of us.
              "Have you been saved?" is thus a ridiculous question which the inerrantists shove
        into our faces.  We are not "saved" until we come to think like God, and we can no
        more expect that to occur in an instant than we could have expected Christ to have
        attained full wisdom in an instant.  The process of being "saved" is a lifelong
        endeavor.
        
          7-19.  In refusing to write anything down and in relying as much upon his personal
        example as on anything he said, Jesus expressed great faith in the power of ideas,
        ideas manifested in action.  Indeed, his faith in these ideas was so great that he
        believed that they would triumph even if many of his witnesses were illiterate, and
        even if individuals and officialdom, both secular and ecclesiastical, operated
        deliberately to try to destroy his credibility.
              Perhaps Jesus was himself an illiterate man: "And the Pharisees said, `How does
        this man know letters, having never learned?'" (John 7:15)
        
          7-20.  The core of Christian ethics has had to survive not only new ways of
        thinking, but old ways as well which continue to afflict his followers.  The example
        of Paul is instructive.
              Paul's fundamental error was perhaps inevitable, given his own grounding in the
        ancient retributive Judaic tradition.  Paul's statement of the significance of Jesus' death
        and resurrection in retributive language (the sacrifice of the perfect lamb) is at best
        metaphorical, and at worst downright misleading, for it distorts the significance of the
        cross from being an expression of ethical and spiritual perfection into some kind of
        ritualistic nonsense which God had to endure in order to appease himself: "I would
        love to be able to forgive you, but first I must sacrifice myself to Myself."
        
          7-21.  True repentance comes only through the restorative powers of the Spirit of
        God working through human reason to induce us to rethink our lives and actions.  I
        would not be surprised if the ancient origins of this word "repent" were not originally
        very close to the origins of the word "pensive," which means "thoughtful" (but which
        surely had its roots in a verb similar to "think"--the Latin pensare: to ponder).  Thus,
        if we could go back not merely to Latin but to the probably prehistoric Latin root out
        of which one might speculate that both "pensive" and "penitent" arose, we might find
        that the origins of an act of repentance lie ultimately in the process of rethinking our
        earlier choices, rather than from the state of being sorry (Latin paenitere: to be sorry)
        for our misdeeds.  
              We are truly sorry for the victims of our injustices only after we have rethought,
        not before.  At the point at which we become capable of feeling sorrow, we also
        become capable of feeling love, and of being healed in an emotional sense.  The
        capacity for truly compassionate sorrow and thus for a corresponding compassionate
        love comes from rethinking, repenting, and thus being forgiven of our sins:  "Her
        great love proves that her many sins have been forgiven; where little has been
        forgiven, little love is shown." (Luke 7:47, New English Bible)
        
          7-22.  Where there is no rethinking, there can be no change of mind; where there
        is no change of mind, there can be no change of heart; and where there is no change
        of heart, there can be no capacity to feel truly sorry for what we have done.  We do
        well to remember that the wellspring of genuine emotion lies yet in the capacity for
        rational thought, not in some mechanism of mere physiology: human emotion and
        human reason are but two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the psyche.
        
          7-23.  What is this moral purification, this healing, that comes with both forgiving
        and being forgiven?  Why is it that the feeling of the psyche is the same both when we
        are forgiven by God and when we forgive others?
              The reason is surely that the restorative powers of the Spirit of God are operative
        in both cases: that which comforts us--that which purifies, forgives, heals--and then
        leaves the psyche at rest is the forgiving Spirit of God.  When we invoke that spirit
        in our dealings with others, we are transformed by it: it becomes the ground of true
        Being.  
        
          7-24.  The purification stage of repentance is not pleasant, but neither does it
        represent harshness on God's part: God's truth has simply let us see ourselves, and we
        do not like what we see.  In addition, its initial stage--the search process for what is
        wrong with ourselves--can be slow and painful, but painful only because of our own
        resistance to the Spirit of God.  After this self-diagnosis (with God's aid) comes the
        purgative phase, or perhaps the surgery of the cancer on the soul which is the false
        rationalization of wrong-doing.  This is often intensely painful, but brief.  It is perhaps
        not so much a separate phase as the culmination of the search process, when the false
        rationalization grudgingly gives way to the truth, tearing at us as if it were some
        demonic false self trying to hang onto the soul that it has afflicted.  
              In less metaphorical language, that anguished, horrible moment which is often the
        culmination of true repentance is perhaps an instantaneous glimpse of what we are
        compared to what we ought to be.  The pain of the glimpse is no sooner felt than it
        is gone, however, for we are transformed by the vision of what we ought to be, the
        divine vision brought to us by the Spirit of God, a vision which always comforts and
        restores.
        
          7-25.  In the restorative phase of repentance, the truth as to what ought to be done
        (and ought to have been done) comes flooding in as an instant balm.  We know at that
        point that we should not have done some evil to another person.
              When we are injured by another, we may also go through much of the same
        process if we lose faith in the worth of others, or if we lose faith in God and thus seek
        retribution rather than strive to understand and forgive.  The consideration of revenge
        we call "resentment," during which time the wound is picked at and the concomitant
        anger nursed.  This is itself sin, even if never acted out.
              It is, of course, possible to be injured without wanting revenge.  In such a case, the
        indwelling power of God comforts the psyche during the external social trauma and
        then provides the restorative for natural recuperation.  (This salvation from revenge
        at the time does not, of course, preclude the possibility that later, in a moment of
        spiritual weakness, the memory of the injury may trigger resentment and the desire for
        revenge.)
              The healing, restorative process is in some ways the same in all of the three cases
        of injury: when we sin, when we are injured and sin by not forgiving, and when we are
        injured and do not sin.  The sense of sameness comes from the goodness of God,
        which is unchanging.  Thus it is that, no matter how it is that the psyche came to be
        injured, and however it came to be purified (where that is called for), the healing or
        restorative phase is the same, and the sense of goodness or comfort coming from God
        is likewise the same.
        
          7-26.  God is always good, always redemptive, never punitive nor angry--never a
        God to be feared.  If we fear God, it is indeed out of a glimmer that we shall have to
        face the truth and let go of our comfortable rationalizations.
              Only in this very limited sense is it the case that "The fear of God is the beginning
        of all wisdom."  It is a foolish fear, for God is not the source of this fear nor of any
        threat which should induce fear.  In fearing God, the false self perhaps fears that
        which will lead to the end of its cancerous existence on our soul.  The true self is
        redeemed by the truth of God and has nothing to fear from God--and knows it.
              Trust in God is the completion of all wisdom.
        
          7-27.  It is instructive that the King James Version makes reference to not getting
        angry at one's brother "without cause." (Matthew 5:22, KJV) The implication is that,
        if one has good cause, anger is alright.
              On this point, however, the translators of the King James Version overstepped the
        valid discretion of translators and inserted their own views: the original Greek
        contains absolutely no linguistic referent which could possibly be translated as "with-
        out cause."  The passage in question is the more significant because the words are not
        those of this or that disciple or apostle: they are words attributed to Jesus of
        Nazareth.  Why would the translators take such liberties, unless they (like most
        persons) were absolutely convinced that anger is sometimes the appropriate response?
              It is noteworthy that the book of James abjures anger categorically: "A man's anger
        does not promote the Kingdom of Heaven." (James 1:20)  If God is not a God of
        anger but of compassion, however, then we, too, should make our decisions based
        upon compassion rather than upon anger or any other evil tendency.  Anger is, after
        all, a momentary lapse of rationality.  It should never be glorified, and it is never in
        any sense therapeutic.
        
          7-28.  In the Lord's Prayer (found, not coincidentally, with the Sermon on the
        Mount in Matthew 6: 9-15), there is the injunction to forgive others if we wish to be
        forgiven.  This is not to say that God would not forgive us if we failed to forgive
        others: it is to say that in some sense he cannot, for the peaceful spirit of God cannot
        dwell in us and inspire us to know and follow the way that leads out of peril if we
        block that spirit by harboring vindictive thoughts and motives, thoughts and motives
        which do not come from God.  God, in giving us free moral agency, has given us the
        choice to accept or not to accept him.  Even so, he knows that we cannot long endure
        the emptiness of life without him, and so he knows that sooner or later our choice will
        be to seek him again.
              God waits for us, and it is comforting to know that he has infinite patience for
        those whom he has ordained as having infinite worth: all persons.  In the meantime,
        the anger or resentment which we harbor toward others is our own self-imposed hell.
        It does not come from God, nor does God cast us into such a hell.
        
          7-29.  It is noteworthy that, with regard to forgiveness, there are two teachings by
        Jesus which may represent the evolution of his thinking further and further away from
        the retributive upbringing of his culture and toward the non-retributive ideal which
        defines his unique gift to us.  First, in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus offers a set of
        contingencies for dealing with those who have wronged us but refuse to repent,
        beginning with confrontation and culminating with exposure and public condemna-
        tion, and possibly even expulsion from the community: "Treat him as a pagan or a tax
        gatherer."  A similar teaching occurs in Luke simply as "If your brother wrongs you,
        reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3)  In both teachings, there is
        a condition attached to forgiveness: our offender must repent and express sorrow.
              The implication seems to be that, if another wrongs us but does not repent, we
        have no obligation to forgive that person.  It is true that Jesus seems very liberal here
        in saying that, no matter how many times our brother has sinned against us, we must
        always be prepared to forgive.  Yet, the condition is still there: "if he repents."
              In the account by Mark, by contrast, there is a far more liberal statement: "When
        you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him."  (Mark
        11:25)  No contingency is provided for here: there is not the condition, "if he
        repents."  Rather, one is simply always to forgive others, regardless of whether or not
        they have repented or expressed sorrow for their act.
              If this interpretation is correct, then the message of unconditional forgiveness
        seems to culminate on the cross, where Jesus forgives, without condition of any kind,
        those who are executing him and those (including the rulers and soldiers) who are
        continuing to taunt him: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
        (Luke 23:34-36)  Is it possible that Jesus changed his mind, that he grew in wisdom
        even up to the moment of his death?  Or is it possible instead that the various
        witnesses and New Testament writers simply interpreted his teachings in different
        ways, because of their own belief systems?  I must suspend final judgment, since there
        is no way to prove an answer one way or the other.  I am inclined to think that even
        Jesus did not understand the fullness of the divine message until very near the end of
        his life: the process of "growing in wisdom" (demonstrated as a young boy arguing
        with the elders in the temple) continued either until his death or until a fairly short
        time before his death.  One can only speculate as to whether he began his ministry
        before or after he attained fullness of wisdom on the matter of repentance, or on any
        other matter.
              On such questions hangs the ultimate significance of the life and message of Jesus
        of Nazareth.  There may also be implications here as to how different Jesus really was
        from the rest of us.
                                    
          7-30.  The most wonderful thing to which we may look forward in the next life is
        surely freedom from the judgment of others.  To the extent that one can live without
        judging others in this life, one is indeed an angelos  of God, which in the Greek means
        literally nothing more or less than "messenger."  (Strictly speaking, the transliteration
        from the Greek gives us aggelos, with the double gamma--our "gg"--nasalized in
        Greek as an English "ng" sound.)
              From that root we also get the word "evangelist."  The most effective evangelist,
        angel, or messenger is, of course, someone who exemplifies through deeds the
        benevolent and non-judgmental message which is God's requirement of us, one to the
        other.
              To be free of the critical judgment by others of our moral worth--that would
        indeed be heaven.  If we carry the message of non-judgment through our example, we
        shall indeed be carrying a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we go: we
        shall be messengers from God.  That is as close as we can get to being "angels" in this
        life.
        
          7-31.  God's judgment is always supportive, encouraging.  It is never condemna
        tory.  The same message of support, encouragement, is the only message which we
        are obliged to offer to others in the name of judgment.
              Our only moral obligation about judgment of persons is to judge ourselves and to
        live up to that judgment.  So doing will be sufficient reproof of, or encouragement for,
        others.  God will decide which is appropriate to their needs.  We are thus obligated
        to concentrate upon doing the will of God, freed of the perceived necessity of
        assessing the shortcomings of others.  It is not for us to decide whether another needs
        to be inspired or reproved.  Our good example may do either, and God will decide
        which function our example will perform.
              Make no mistake: the avoidance of judging others is not an easy virtue to perfect.
        Perhaps it is the last virtue, since some say that being non-judgmental is the sin of the
        pious, those who have made great progress in conquering their other weaknesses.
        One might as easily argue, however, that it is the first virtue, the foundation of all of
        the others: perhaps the least virtuous persons are the ones most disposed to judge and
        condemn others, often ruining their lives and reputations in the process.
        
          7-32.  It is well to remember that the role of accuser is not sanctioned by the God
        of the New Testament.  There is no constitutional foundation for the role of accuser,
        prosecutor, in the Peaceable Kingdom.  Those who accuse must invoke the retributive
        credo found in an earlier conception of the moral constitution, the Law of Moses.
        
          7-33.  Those who would understand the systematic nature of the Sermon on the
        Mount must consult Matthew, chapter five, verses 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43.  Each of
        these verses contains the phrase, "You have been taught. . . , but I say unto you. . .
        ,"  either contradicting or going beyond some earlier teaching of the Law of Moses,
        including several of those teachings which we call the "Ten Commandments."  Most
        of these teachings are obvious enough, but the one that deals with judgment is not.
        Yet it is vitally important.  In the "Old Law," one was simply enjoined not to engage
        in false witness or judgment of another.  I would speculate that the actual sermon, as
        delivered by Jesus of Nazareth, was originally structured such that the teaching in
        Matthew 7:1 to "judge not" was counterposed to the commandment not to "bear false
        witness."  That is, whereas in the "Old Law" one was being enjoined not to judge
        falsely, in the "New Law" in Matthew 7:1, one is being enjoined to judge the worth
        of others not at all.
              This is pure speculation, of course, but it does remind us of the possibility that
        Jesus is showing us an alternative to the statist way of handing injustice: no judges,
        no courts, no lawsuits, no counteraccusations, no attempts at self-defense, no attempt
        to reclaim what was ours before another took it.
              Is that too radical, or is that simply what we must infer from these teachings if we
        are to realize the fulfillment of the will of God?  It is interesting that these are the only
        parts of the Bible that biblical inerrantists do not take literally, and it is these
        teachings that go to the heart of the message of the Prince of Peace.  
        
          7-34.  If Jesus did not come to set right the incompleteness and imperfections in
        the Mosaic conception of justice, then why did he come?  His "sacrifice" has been
        made much of by the Apostle Paul, but it is necessary that the metaphor of "the
        perfect lamb that was slain for the remission of sins" be seen for what it was: a
        metaphor.  Not only was it a metaphor, but it was a metaphor which depended for its
        sense upon a retributive conception of justice: certain evils must be reciprocated in
        order to wipe out prior evils.
              This is the most blatant form of retributivism, what one might call the "cosmic
        imbalance" theory.  On this view, another evil is needed in order to cancel a previous
        evil.  This is Mosaic to the core, part and parcel of the world view which defended not
        only animal sacrifice to propitiate an "angry" God, but the foundation of the ethic of
        "an eye for an eye," quite a barbaric and superstitious conception of justice.  The so-
        called "New Law" clearly rejects this conception.  Paul perhaps used the metaphor
        simply because he believed that such a metaphor was needed to reach those reared in
        the retributive tradition.  Yet, there are several things wrong with this kind of
        rationalization.  First, there is every reason to believe that Paul meant literally what
        he said.  Paul himself was steeped in the retributive tradition of the Mosaic Law, even
        to the extent that his entire treatment of the state in Romans 13 is totally retributive
        in content.
               Paul, however useful he may have been to the spread of Christian teachings, also
        contaminated those teachings to a considerable extent by his retributive worldview.
        
          7-35.  If the mere sacrifice of Jesus had been needed to negate the sin of the world,
        then Jesus could quietly have jumped off of a cliff in the solitude of the mountains.
        That act would have been witnessed by God the Father, who alone sees all things and
        who alone needed to be "placated," on the crudest retributive view.  No, the
        significance of the cross is not to be found in any retributive sacrificial nonsense: the
        significance of the cross is the total and complete repudiation of the retributive
        conception and its replacement with an ethic of perfect forgiveness.
        
          7-36.  If one ideal has guided all of my thoughts throughout this work, it is the
        ideal represented by the vision of a man perfect in thought and deed, but without any
        of the self defenses or other imperfect means adopted by ordinary mortals when
        confronted with either danger or falsehood.  The vision, that is, is indeed that of the
        Messiah, but a Messiah that I fear that many will be as unable to accept in this age as
        others were unable to accept almost two thousand years ago: a deliberately
        vulnerable being.
              Not many persons, that is, can be expected at present to make themselves so
        deliberately vulnerable as to choose not to use certain powers at their disposal for
        their own self-defense.  Perhaps we are unlike the Messiah in that we do not have
        certain powers at our disposal, but we may nonetheless be like him in that we may
        morally choose not to use our existing powers in certain ways, especially not for mere
        self-defense.
              Most persons, however, will yield to the temptation of self-defense when in
        desperate straits, even if it means destroying another, or accusing their accusers in
        order to save their own reputations.  Human weakness does not, however, vitiate the
        psychologically ("spiritually") redemptive power of the divine message.
        
          7-37.  If we cannot accept divinely sanctioned limitations on the means that we
        may use to defend ourselves, I can only conclude that we cannot accept God, for God
        by his nature is apparently constrained by his own goodness to use only perfect means
        to achieve his perfect ends.  If this is true of God the Father, it must certainly have
        been true of Jesus as the Son of God: he came, above all, to give us an example of
        what it means to be constrained by the requirements of divine goodness to use only
        perfect means for the attainment of our ends in an imperfect world.
              Jesus, that is, was constrained by his own goodness not to use deceit, violence,
        force, or any other evil to defend himself or to promote other aspects of his
        "kingdom" on earth.  This is what I mean when I say that we, as children of God, are
        likewise constrained by conscience to accept divinely sanctioned limitations on the
        powers at our disposal.  If we cannot pass the test of not using certain means to
        achieve our ends within the very narrow limits of present human power, we may be
        sure that God will not grant us greater powers.
              My presumption, then, is that we are being groomed to wield greater powers than
        we presently have, but that God cannot simply give us such powers until we have
        demonstrated in this life an acceptance of certain constraints upon the use of whatever
        powers we may already have.
        
          7-38.  If I reveal my doubts, do I open myself up to the charge that I have not the
        courage of my convictions?  Indeed, I am appalled by the vacillations of my faith and
        concomitant moral courage.  Yet, I must admit to my own intermittent misgivings:
        others must know that this faith is no easy faith to accept, so that they will not be
        discouraged if embracing it seems to bring only more suffering and self-doubt rather
        than the happiness which all of us so earnestly seek.
        
          7-39.  Oh, to be perfect!  The aspiration seems so absurd; yet, without it what is
        indeed the meaning of all the doubts and sufferings that we presently endure?
        Perfection surely must come at quite a price, and I mean not merely the sacrifice of
        Christ but our own long and winding search for the wisdom and understanding which
        could sustain our faith under any possible degree of duress.  Only so, as a hard anvil
        upon which perfect souls are to be forged, can the trials of this life make sense; but
        only so can our lives come to be consistent with the supreme goodness of God.
              There is nothing foolish or absurd about trying to live a perfectly peaceable life.
        Perhaps the foolishness lies in trying to rationalize anything less as the will of God.
        
          7-40.  I do believe that one of the purposes of the life of Christ was to show us an
        example of self-government which is as far superior to common conceptions of
        democracy as his own conception of a divine "kingdom" was superior to every
        existing kingdom which he saw and could have emulated: kingdoms based upon
        domination, deceit, arrogant nationalism, and hierarchies of power and pride.
              I do believe that he came to show us an example of peaceableness raised to such
        a state of perfection that its attainment requires our continuous study in all of our
        interpersonal relations, not merely in the relations between nations, families, and
        larger groupings.  
              I do believe that he came to show us the most perfect conception of forgiveness,
        a forgiveness so complete that he was incapable of hating those who committed the
        worst atrocities against him.  
             I also believe that he came to show us the example of an unconditional love so
        great that it always took the initiative of good will, never waiting to anticipate
        whether or not such good will and good action would be reciprocated in thought or
        in deed.
              Most of all, for the sake of trying to understand the purpose of the life of Christ,
        I believe that he came to earth in the form of man for the overarching purpose of
        exemplifying the kind of life which I have just attempted to describe.  If, after all is
        said and done, the example which he gave us is not absolutely unique in its
        forbearance toward injustice, then I fail to see how or why he should be worthy of
        imitation, much less worship.  If such a life cannot be called "pacifistic" in some sense,
        then I do not know why we should call him the "Prince of Peace."  
              It was not, that is, so that he could forgive our sins that he lived and died, but so
        that we should learn how to forgive and get along with one another.
        
          7-41.  Let us define a first order evil as an evil which typically involves the choice
        to give in to an unworthy or inappropriate appetite or passion.  This encompasses a
        great deal, and these can be grievous evils indeed.  Nonetheless, there are also evils
        arising from a failure to repent of these first order evils, and these can be classed as
        second order evils.  They typically manifest themselves as an arrogant tendency to
        judge other persons, or as a hostile, vindictive, or blame-oriented psychological
        disposition.  All manner of abusiveness, narrow-mindedness, and downright meanness
        can be seen as falling within this category.  
              It is not at all clear that these evils classed as "second order" by virtue of their
        occurrence are actually lesser evils.  Indeed, they are probably the more insidious
        evils.  The label "second order" refers to the fact that these evils are derivative: they
        do not merely involve the lack of rationality and knowledge but involve as well overt
        and deliberate rationalization for prior evils.  They are generally manifested not only
        as rationalization for the first order evils but as concomitant tendency to project one's
        self-loathing and self-contempt onto other persons.  This predisposition, further
        rationalized, blocks one from admitting one's own failings and thus prevents being
        "saved" from (repenting of) one's own first order evils.  
              Those who are most abusive and judgmental of others may be demonstrating, for
        all I know, the depth of their own depravity, a vast accumulation of unrepented sins.
        That is food for thought at just those moments when we are disposed to sit in
        judgment upon the shortcomings of others: it is our own failings that are gnawing at
        us from the inside.
        
          7-42.  In the Lord's Prayer, we find the appeal, "Forgive us as we forgive others,"
        followed by the teaching that, "If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father
        in heaven forgive you."  The language about forgiveness here is indeed metaphorical,
        for God is always of a forgiving disposition.
              Such metaphorical language is useful because it reminds us that, unless we stop
        trying to justify our misdeeds, or stop judging others (projecting our own evil and
        self-contempt onto others), then we cannot get on with the business of examining our
        own faults and freeing ourselves from (being "saved" of) our own enslavements,
        addictions, and rationalizations that we use to deny our sin.  (I have no substitute
        word for this last concept, "sin," since it is as clear and concise a moral concept that
        one could wish for: it says it all, and with only three letters.  One is reminded of Karl
        Menninger's excellent little book, Whatever Became of Sin?1)
              The rule of God is different from that of earthly sovereigns precisely in that God,
        as defined as being perfectly good, does not enforce His will through evil.  If he used
        the threat of punishment to enforce his will, then he would not be morally different
        from earthly sovereigns, for punishment is always an inherent evil, no matter what
        good ends it might be used to try to promote.  Of God we expect not only perfect
        ends, but perfect means as well.
              God, that is, is always of a forgiving Spirit--even when we are in the depths of our
        depravity and torment and thereby far removed from his grace.
                                    
          7-43.  That God does not punish can be seen in Christ's remark, "I came to save
        men's lives, not to destroy them."  There is, however, one final and important sense
        in which God does judge and thus does seem to punish: his Truth casts our own half-
        truths into relief, and his Truth shows as well our blatant falsehoods and rationaliza-
        tions to be the utter darkness and meaninglessness that they are.  Even here, however,
        the ever benign providential sovereign does not undercut our rationalizations
        prematurely: he carries us many times when our rationalizations could not, and he
        chooses an opportune time to reveal his truth and thus to do his pruning.  
        
          7-44.  Is it possible that no one, not even God, can exist in perfect "emotional"
        (spiritual?) isolation from other sentient beings?  Is such an isolated, aloof God a
        stern, hoary conception of God akin to the Nietzschean conception of Zarathustra?2
        Has Nietzsche, through his fictionalized character, given us an inadvertent vision of
        God--or of a monster?  Is God so constituted and so complete that he needs no other
        beings, but creates them solely for their own joy of existence?
        
          7-45.  Is one who lets evil happen as culpable as one who overtly commits evil?
        If so, then what shall we say of God, who permits evil to occur in the world?  Shall
        we blame him for that evil?
              If not, then are we justified in blaming the pacifist for not using violence to stop
        (ostensibly) a greater violence?  The answer is not self-evident.  No glib answers will
        suffice or comfort.
        
          7-46. Perhaps God is limited to the use of the force of ideas, not the force of
        punishment, to achieve his purposes.  Perhaps he can no more punish (requite evil for
        evil) than he can lie.  That might be one reason that he allows evil to exist in the
        world: the same goodness that constrains him from lying might also constrain him
        from using other imperfect means.
              If pacifists are constrained by the same requirement--that they must use ideal
        (divine?) means to achieve valid ends--then are they not as justified as God in refusing
        to use force?  And does this not exonerate them from the charge that they are guilty
        of a sin of omission by refusing to take life in the name of saving life?
        
          7-47.  Is it possible that we really do not want to be like God, that we prefer the
        impotence of secular modes of power, of throwing our weight around, of intimidating
        others and showing our dominance?  If so, we shall find, I fear, that that is only the
        illusion of power, and in choosing it we cut ourselves off from the only true Power
        that Is.  
               Is arrogance not based on the illusion of power that we do not have?
        
          7-48.  Does God work through the state and other private command hierarchies
        protected and sanctioned by the police power of the state--our employers?
              By way of answer, let us return to the source of "employer" in the French verb
        employer: to use.  The employer is the user.  The employee is the one who is used.
        Would God sanction the use of one human being by another?  Is that what Jesus
        meant when he said that, "Secular rulers like to lord it over their subjects, to make
        them feel the weight of their authority.  But it must not be so among you.  For he who
        is greatest among you would be your servant." (Matthew 20:25-28)
              In this age, our employers, public or private, are part of the command structure of
        the state, as defined at the beginning of the chapter on church and state.  They are
        among the "secular rulers."  They are--let us not mince words--almost always our
        tyrants, rarely our benefactors.
              It is for this reason, their propensity toward tyranny, that most are obsessed with
        maintaining what they call their "authority."  They want to preserve the system of
        domination of which they are a part, and from which they gain much in the way of
        material and social rewards.
              The psychological, spiritual, losses of such gains are, of course, devastating.
        
          7-49.  It is not too strong to say that state authority begins with the secular
        sovereign in each realm and goes down to our supervisors or bosses.  That is the real
        meaning of the chain of command for the state as a whole.  We err when we confine
        our discussions of it to the obviously public sphere: the sphere of private enterprise
        is also sanctioned or enforced by the public sphere.
              That is, private property is a public institution, an arm of the state, since it is
        sanctioned and protected by the sword of the state.
        
          7-50.  I respect another's right to his beliefs without thereby respecting the beliefs
        themselves.  If a man tells me that his religion practices infant sacrifice, I could not
        possibly say that what I feel for his beliefs is anything approaching respect.  Nor do
        I have the luxury of not criticizing his beliefs: although I might respect his right to
        believe as he will, I respect truth too much to allow his beliefs to go unchallenged.
        
          7-51.  Many defenses of "pacifism" are not labeled as such.  Quite a few, such as
        historian Stephen Ambrose's "revisionist" accounts of the Cold War,3 are not doctri-
        naire pacifism in any sense, and yet they do offer some arguments and historical
        interpretations which are compatible with many pacifist claims.
              Other variants of pacifism recommend something like a "world state."  Christian
        ethics, as I understand it, certainly would not be compatible with this view, since the
        state is inherently violent and retributive and thus counter to the whole thrust of
        Christian ethics.  One cannot but be alarmed by those who speak blithely about a
        "world state" or "world government."  Do they not realize that there is already One
        who governs?
        
          7-52.  I have claimed that the actual teachings of Jesus were perfectly non-
        retributive and perfectly altruistic, but the biblical account of his teachings does not
        seem to support this notion with anything like perfect consistency.  That is, even in
        the New Testament there are difficulties with a consistently non-retributive
        interpretation.
              Nonetheless, the appeal of a perfectly non-retributive vision from the story of the
        life of Jesus forces one to re-examine the Bible, and to posit it and not the vision as
        being in error.  As has been so often asked, however, what epistemological criterion
        is going to guide one once one starts questioning the legitimacy of this or that biblical
        passage while affirming the legitimacy of yet another?
              The rationalist will recognize the answer: the coherence criterion of truth.  The
        view of Jesus of Nazareth, if he was the Messiah, must make sense, and its sense or
        meaning must cohere around some central themes and acts which have the strongest
        intuitive appeal.  Passages which do not cohere with such central themes must be
        adjudged suspect, and so must the infallibility of their authors.
        
          7-53.  Paul categorically says that the secular authorities are in God's service, for
        the sake of bringing punishment upon the offender, and that innocent persons do not
        have to fear such authorities.
              Why, then, did Jesus fear his crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities?
        The story of Jesus in Gethsemane is quite clear as to what Jesus was feeling as he
        anticipated the trials that awaited him.  Was Jesus deserving of his fate?  If so, there
        is a reductio of the whole Christian message.  In addition, if persons always get what
        they deserve, then Paul's own repeated imprisonment was what he deserved rather
        than simple persecution in the course of service of God.  Since he clearly did not
        believe that his own imprisonment was always (if ever) any kind of divine punishment
        of him, it is not clear why he would have made such a categorical statement about
        punishment by the authorities ("in God's service") in Romans 13.  
               Rationalization will not solve the problem of Paul's inconsistencies: Paul said what
        he said, and it is nonsense.  If what he meant was that persons should obey the secular
        authorities only when they are in God's service, then so be it.  He did not say precisely
        that.
        
          7-54.  As for moral desert at the hands of the secular authorities, did six million
        Jews deserve their fate at the hands of Adolph Hitler?  The idea is preposterous.
        
          7-55.  One important thing to remember about the passage in Romans 13, which
        seems to sanction the state as the instrument of God, is that it was written by Paul to
        Romans.  That is, it was written to Roman citizens, persons who surely were confused
        as to the implications of loyalty to Christ versus loyalty to the state: Caesar's state,
        the very state, in fact, which had executed the Christ.
              The relevant passages in Romans 13 for political philosophy are only a few lines
        in length, indicating that they were not part of a long and systematic treatment as to
        the role of Christians vis-…-vis the state: they were fairly specific injunctions to
        persons who probably wondered whether or not they should be in overt rebellion
        against the state.  
              At the very least, Paul was teaching against violent rebellion, and he apparently
        tried to buttress such an injunction against violent rebellion with some kind of
        rationale of state authority.  If so, however, he went too far--far too far.
        
          7-56.  Is it reasonable to expect Paul to have had the fullness of wisdom and
        insight of the Messiah himself?
        
          7-57.  If God does not rule through the coercive state, as suggested by Paul in
        Romans 13, then how does he rule?  The only possibility compatible with the vision
        of an omniscient and omnipotent God is that God exercises some kind of "providential
        hand" over both our minds and over events in the world.
              The issue of the nature of this divine providence is at once the most neglected and
        most important of concepts for political philosophy.  No political philosopher that I
        know of has tried to deal seriously with the concept of divine providence on a
        sustained theoretical basis.  
              Authoritarian conceptions of "natural law" have instead become the focus of the
        ultimate questions of political philosophy, and, where the issue of the divine hand has
        surfaced in treatises on political philosophy, it has been almost immediately swept into
        the hand of the state: ever since Paul, and thus since Augustine and Aquinas (and after
        them Luther and Calvin), the coercive state has been presumed to be the divine
        instrument not only of retribution but of ordering and coordinating human events.  
              Can such a view be correct?  Has not this elevation of the violent, coercive state
        meant a corresponding abasement of God, especially if God is perceived as being a
        providential God and if his providence is thought to work primarily through moral
        suasion--not through delegation of his authority to state officials whose office and
        status are protected by the sword?
              Is not a non-violent and non-authoritarian rendering of the natural law tradition
        possible?
                                    
          7-58.  It is not too strong to say that, when one speaks of God while minimizing
        the providential aspect of divine governance in human affairs, it is not really God
        anymore that one talks about, but something else.  That is, one who professes belief
        in God but denies any meaningful providential role by God in human affairs does
        not really believe in God at all, but in some purely fictional construct which goes by
        the name of "God."
              In the absence of a meaningful providential theism, a coercive statism tends to raise
        its ugly head, even in Christianity--or perhaps especially in Christianity.
        
          7-59.  Perhaps it is not too strong to say that the foundation of a truly coherent
        pacifism is a strong conception of the providential role of God in human affairs.  Only
        by positing a strong role for God in planning (willing) and enforcing (ordering) human
        affairs are the premises defended in this work at all plausible.
              Indeed, if there is a weakness in most theories of pacifism, it is that they have
        ignored this most fundamental metaphysical underpinning.  Such theories have failed,
        that is, to deal seriously with the problem of order in the absence of violence and
        coercion.  It is not enough to be opposed to war.  It is necessary to see one's
        opposition to war as being a manifestation of a more general opposition to state
        coercion, violence, and judgment.  Since this is all too often not seen, what is often
        found is a strident "pacifism" which is moralistic and judgmental to the core and which
        too easily invokes the law courts and judgment of persons over persons, even as it
        hollowly abjures war.  This failure is also part of the failure of pacifist "movements,"
        which are based all too often upon a fleeting outrage at this or that war or state action
        but which have no intellectual coherence or spiritual sustenance for dealing with the
        perennial attempts of the state to repress dissent against war and other moral
        outrages.
              When the state does try to repress anti-war movements, flimsy pacifistic impulses
        cannot give persons the patience to continue to dissent peacefully.  The "pacifist" who
        loses his or her temper and perspective can all too easily become a mere terrorist,
        employing the very same methods at the individual level which are abjured at the
        larger societal level.
              Such pseudo-pacifism may even tend to prolong wars, by undermining the
        legitimacy of all truly peaceful attempts at rational moral suasion, and by provoking
        a popular reaction against the cause of peace.
        
          7-60.  One may believe in the Trinity without yet believing that God exists in "three
        persons," or in any plurality of persons, for our God is one God, one person, which
        is to say one psychic Being.  God may yet exhibit or manifest his face in more than
        one way, and these various facets of God may correctly be labeled as Father, Son, and
        Holy Spirit.  The idea of "God in three persons" is a noble if perhaps simplistic
        attempt to comprehend the presently incomprehensible.  Such a formulation does not
        ultimately make sense, however, and it is not biblical: it is a line from a hymn.  
        
          7-61.  God is.  As Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)  God is
        surely not constrained by time, as human beings are, unless he chooses so to constrain
        himself by taking human form.  Nor is God constrained by space, for surely neither
        space nor time have any ultimate meaning or purpose apart from that assigned to them
        by God.  Yet, to be created by God in human form is to be constrained by the limits
        of space and time.  Some kinds of limitations are necessary for the definitions of
        human personhood and existence.  Only God can exist without limits.  Humankind,
        in trying to know or live an existence which is unbounded, tries thereby to throw off
        the definition of its own existence, the limitations imposed upon it by God.  
              To try to live as human beings without any limits is an act of self-destruction,
        spiritually as well as physically.  Indeed, to try to throw off all limits may the ultimate
        nature of sin.
        
          7-62.  If this life is for the purpose of divine teaching, then we might think of each
        part of our lives--especially the trials--as analogous to taking a course or courses in
        school.  Each course--or segment of our lives--has some essential point or points to
        be learned, and each is designed for the purpose of promoting that learning.  Every
        stage of our lives, every job and every relationship, every worthy project, and every
        significant thing that happens to us is surely such a course, or part of one or more
        "courses."  This is true even where God does not ordain such projects, jobs, or
        relationships.  He will still use them as epochs during which we may learn some
        essential point--but this is hardly to say that he did not have a better plan for our
        learning in mind than our folly and our suffering.
        
          7-63.  God's enemy in the learning process is within each of us, although I do not
        presume to understand the nature or source of this enemy.  To posit one evil one,
        Satan, seems to be an exercise in infinite regression, for, if one angel really fell from
        heaven, then we should have to explain why or how evil got a foothold in heaven, or
        in that being's life.  Was there a pre-Satan who tempted Satan, and a pre-pre-Satan
        before that, ad infinitum, ad absurdum?  
        
          7-64.  To explain the source of evil, it seems better overall to assume that there are
        forces at work in all incomplete personalities which resist the full development of
        those personalities.  These forces are surely, in part at least, the result of the
        immaturity which comes from incomplete knowledge or understanding.
              One wants to believe that, when one's knowledge is complete, one will indeed be
        up to "the master's level" and that one will have no propensity to sin even as one
        retains the capacity of free will.  There seems to be a paradox here, but I think that
        it need not be any more problematic than many other paradoxes which occur in the
        context of religious writings.
              In any case, since all of us were, in one sense, created from nothing and are still not
        yet the fullness of that something which we are becoming, then it should come as no
        surprise to have to conclude that all of us have within us the seeds of evil, that
        remnant of nothingness which is being replaced by the meaningfulness which is
        existence and a partaking of the divine.
        
          7-65.  If there is a single metaphysical assumption (besides the existence of God)
        which lies behind the present work, it is indeed the assumption that the world is
        incomplete.  This assumption almost forces one to forego the process of judging the
        moral worth of others.  An incomplete creation implies also incomplete human beings,
        beings who have not reached the fullness of their potential rationality and wisdom.
        Judging and blaming them for their failings is pointless: sin exists, but knowing when
        to assess blame is both impossible and pointless.
              Perhaps God never blames.  Perhaps that is a lesson that Jesus, God incarnate,
        came to teach.  Perhaps it was also a lesson that he, as a human being, had to learn.
        Otherwise we should have to assume that he sprang forth "complete" from the womb.
              If Jesus did act in a retributive manner in driving the money-changers from the
        temple and in judging the Pharisaic priesthood harshly, then one must reflect upon the
        fact that these events were followed by his own greatest trials.  Is it possible that even
        the Christ had to have his faith in his teachings of non-judgment and non-retribution
        tested to the fullest, just as do other human beings?  I am not comfortable with such
        a conclusion, but it is a possibility.
        
          7-66.  "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."  If Jesus was wise, and
        if he also "increased in wisdom" (Luke 2:52), then these last words are the culmina
        tion of his wisdom.  If he increased in wisdom, then he did not always have perfect
        wisdom.
               Perhaps he only finally attained it on the cross.  Perhaps only there did he see the
        necessity of forgiving prior to repentance.  If we could learn that, we would instantly
        abolish penitentiaries, those places where we send persons to become "penitent," to
        repent.  What a sacrilege!  What utter human folly, that we believe that the best way
        to teach virtue is to brutalize further.
        
          7-67.  How does one survive psychologically--spiritually--in prison, or in the face
        of any kind of harsh judgment from others?
              Perhaps one finally learns that survival and redemption come not only from
        admitting to oneself one's failings, but giving one's jailers or persecutors the benefit
        of the doubt: Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
        
          7-68.  Perhaps the metaphysical assumption of incomplete knowledge implies the
        ethical conclusion of forgiveness: from recognition of the fact that persons commit
        evil deeds out of incomplete knowledge and understanding comes the ethical
        conclusion that one ought thereby to forego judgment.
              Non-retributivism, an ethical conclusion, thus might have its foundation in a
        metaphysical assumption of the incompleteness of the divine creation, including the
        incomplete development of human understanding and of human nature.
        
          7-69.  The idea of God in his Providence as being in control of an Infinite Set of
        Benign Contingencies would have enormous implications for pacifism.  Those who
        do not "see their way clear" (in terms of predicting consequences) might yet take
        some comfort from knowing that God has provided contingencies for dealing with the
        supposedly blind and sometimes imprudent choices which all persons are called upon
        to make.  This moral comfort, which we call "faith," could provide the basis for self-
        sacrificial actions, actions which at the time of decision seem to imply no future for
        the individual.  In cases where death is not indeed the outcome (as it sometimes will
        be), the comfort of knowing that God stands in the wings with surprising (and
        surprisingly) peaceful solutions might be seen to imply that some otherwise
        "impractical" or "na‹ve" solutions (by the prudential standards of the self-
        proclaimed "realists") might be the ultimate in practicality.  
              Thus in a very literal sense one who has "no thought for tomorrow" or who stands
        prepared to "lose his life that he may gain it" is not necessarily an imprudent fool after
        all: God may have designed his creation such that those who are seemingly imprudent
        in the sense of indifference to their personal welfare as they try to promote the will of
        God may well be protected and backed up by infinite benign contingencies, implying
        a backup for every possible situation.  One wants to emphasize that this does not
        mean that such actors will always fare well or even survive by worldly standards.  It
        is only to say that, even when a course of action seems foolish or imprudent by
        worldly standards, it might well be in strict accordance with the will of God and thus
        quite wise and prudent in the ultimate and most meaningful sense.
        
          7-70.  If there are any implications about ethics as a result of speculations about
        time, especially the future, it would seem that consequentialist ethics such as
        utilitarianism are most suspect.  For, if the future is not yet, and thus is not, then
        neither are future consequences, and thus it is hard to see how that which is not can
        be the ultimate basis for ethical decision-making, as proclaimed by the principle of
        utility.  What we know of the future is that it seems to be subject to change, and it
        seems that, although we certainly must take account of expected consequences in
        moral decision-making and in all action, it would be a mistake to make that which is
        subject to change the ultimate basis of our choices.  
              It would seem far better to make the ultimate foundation of decision-making that
        which is eternal and unchanging: not expected consequences, but the ultimate and
        complete will of God, as well as we can ascertain it.  On the basis of our conception
        of the will of God, it would seem to be the case that we are obligated to try to bring
        future ends or consequences into being in accordance with that will, using means or
        methods which are also in accordance with that will.
          
          7-71.  There is a tradition, now the philosophical fashion, that says that philoso
        phers should begin with weak metaphysical premises or assumptions, so that we can
        proceed with our arguments and discussions from "settled ideas" or "settled assump-
        tions" (whatever those might be).  To posit the existence of God, or to speculate
        about his nature, or about human nature, is not seen by such persons to be a fruitful
        way to proceed: persons disagree too much about such things, we are told, as if we
        are being given a great new insight.
              I have one thing to say to that tradition: weak assumptions, weak conclusions.
        
          7-72.  Why do the true retributivists say over and over that only the "blood of the
        Lamb" washes away or forgives sins?
              They say it because such a belief saves them from the necessity of forgiving sins.
        They can repeat the incantation and then get back to the dirty business of war,
        punishment, and social exclusion of all kinds.  By their retributive metaphysic of God
        they thus make all of their religious beliefs totally irrelevant for ethical action in this
        life.  True forgiveness would mean saving persons in the here and now, in practical
        everyday contexts.
              This is the lesson that a mature Christianity must learn if it is to realize its mission
        of redemption and salvation in the world.  To speak of saving souls in the next life
        while being indifferent to the welfare of individual persons or souls in this life is the
        greatest folly of which a nominal Christianity is capable, and it is a folly which it
        achieves on a regular and predictable basis.
              Is there a war to be fought?  Then rest assured that "Christians" will come to the
        fray.  Are there wrongdoers to be apprehended and punished?  Then look for
        "Christians" on the forefront of this or that crowd hungry for "justice."
              For God came into the world, and the world knew him not.  Nor does it yet.
Go to Chapter Eight.