Religious Wars | Huguenots v. Catholics (1562-1598)

Preparation for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (During the Fourth War, 1868) ~  Painting by Kārlis Hūns

See more on “war,” here:

Couple things to keep in mind as you read. Firstly, while this is an example of a “religious war, most wars are not:

(CAUSES OF WARS) A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be ‘most’ really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. And the Thirty Years’ War cannot be viewed as “religious” in that you should find certain aspects if this were the case….

[….]

(STAND TO REASONNot only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volumeEncyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second [6-volume] scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, 3 volumes (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005);
  • The General History of the Late War (Volume 3); Containing It’s Rise, Progress, and Event, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (No Publisher [see here], date of publication was from about 1765-1766), 110;
  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Gordon Martel, The Encyclopedia of War, 5 Volumes (New Jersey, NJ: Wiley, 2012).

The other thing to keep in mind, “religious wars” is often over-used by atheists… one honest atheist notes the following:

Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much [of a] role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.

  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34.

And just before getting to the larger excerpt, maybe a small primer about this event is in order via CHRISTIANITY.COM (see more at CHRISTIANITY TODAY):

In France, following the Reformation, Calvinists known as Huguenots sprang up in large numbers. The Roman Catholic establishment persecuted them. Manipulated by French political leaders, the Huguenots rose to defend their rights. Their behavior and methods in turn outraged Catholics. War ravaged France. Although fewer in numbers than their foes, the Huguenots fought so fiercely they managed to extract concessions which allowed them to build churches and manage affairs in cities where they had majorities. But the bloodshed imprinted lasting animosity between Protestants and the Catholic majority.

Out of this smoldering hatred flared up one of the most regrettable events of church history. On August 22, 1572 an attempt was made in Paris to assassinate Huguenot leader and French patriot Coligny. Wounded, he returned home to recover. Accounts disagree as to what happened next and who was responsible. Late on this day, August 23, 1572, armed men, led by the Guises, broke into Coligny’s apartment, overcame the fierce resistance of his guards and killed him. Coligny’s death was the signal for a general butchery of the Huguenots. This atrocity is known to history as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre because it lasted well into that saint’s day.

Catholics slaughtered Huguenots in cold blood into the morning of the 24th in Paris and for days in outlying regions. As many as 70,000 perished. The rest fled to fortified cities and fought back. Their movement became known as La Cause (The Cause) and pitted them against The Holy League (La Sainte Ligue). Brutal fighting raged across the French kingdom.

Charles IX publicly claimed he had ordered the massacre. Certainly the Paris constabulary were warned in advance to prepare for disturbances. Many historians have seen the plot as the work of Catherine de Medici, who felt her power threatened. Possibly Charles, by taking credit, was trying to reap a political benefit from the gruesome event. If so, he won no plaudits outside Catholic regions. Pope Gregory XIII struck a special medallion to commemorate the “holy” act but most other European reaction was horrified. Charles himself suffered psychological agonies from the affair.

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not the end of the matter. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre converted to Catholicism in order to become king, he granted his Huguenot compatriots a number of rights under the Edict of Nantes. These rights were gradually eroded, more Huguenot revolts occurred and, finally, 400,000 fled the country into voluntary exile under Louis XIV.

These people were part of the influence (among others) in early America and Canada:

  • Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there occurred the greatest migration of peoples in the history of the world. More than 600,000 went to Holland, Belgique, England, Ireland, Austria, Russia, South and North America. The largest numbers came to Canada and the American Colonies; and of this number, the largest came to New England and New Netherlands. (HISTORY BOX)

Here is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of War on the “Religious War” #’s 1-9:

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, Vol II (New York, NY: Facts On File, 2005), 931-936.

Huguenots Fight To Survive


On March 1, 1562, supporters of the Catholic duke Francois de Guise (1519-63) killed a congregation of Protestants at Vassy. This massacre was instigated by the granting of limited toleration to the Protestants by Cather­ine de’ Medici (1519-85), the queen mother who took control of the throne at the death of King Francis II (1544­60). The Catholics, under Francois de Guise, the Consta­ble de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 1493­1567), and Prince Antoine de Bourbon (1518-62), king of Navarre, and the Protestants, under Louis I de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Col-igny (1519-72), admiral of France, were soon pitted against each other in a battle known as the First War of Religion. Louis de Conde and Gaspard de Coligny ordered the Huguenots to seize Orleans to retaliate for the Vassy massacre and called on all Protestants in France to rebel. In September 1562, the English sent John Dudley (fl. 16th century) of Warwick to help the Huguenots, and his force captured Le Havre. About one month later, the Catholics defeated Rouen, a Protestant stronghold. One of the lead­ers of the Catholic movement, Antoine de Bourbon, was killed during the attack. The Huguenots continued to rise in rebellion, and in December 15,000 Protestants under Conde and Coligny marched north to join the English troops at Le Havre. En route, they encountered about 19,000 Catholics at Dreux. The Catholics under Guise were victorious, but one of their leaders, Montmorency, was captured, as was the Protestant leader Conde. On February 18, 1563, Guise was killed while besieging Orleans. Peace was finally secured in March when Mont­morency and Conde, both prisoners since the Battle of Dreux, negotiated a settlement at the request of Queen. Catherine. The Peace of Amboise stipulated a degree of tol­erance. The opposing sides then combined forces to push the English from Le Havre, which fell on July 28, 1563.


The Peace of Amboise (July 28, 1563), which stipulated a greater degree of tolerance between the Catholics and the Huguenots in France, ended the First WAR OF RELI­GION. However, peace lasted only four years. On September 29, 1567, the Huguenots under Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72) tried to capture the royal family at Meaux. Although they were unsuccessful, other Protestant bands threatened Paris and captured Orleans, Assent, Vienne, Valence, Nimes, Montpellier, and Montaubon. At the Battle of St. Denis, a force of 16,000 men under Constable de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 1493-1567), attacked Conde’s small army of 3,500. Despite the long odds, the Huguenots managed to remain on the field for several hours. Montmorency, aged 74, was killed during the fray. This war ended on March 23, 1568, with the Peace of Longjumeau by which the Huguenots gained substantial concessions from Queen Catherine de’ Medici (1519-85).


The Third War of Religion broke out on August 18, 1568, when Catholics attempted to capture Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72), the primary Protestant leaders. The Royal­ist Catholics continued to suppress Protestantism. Sporadic fighting occurred throughout the Loire Valley for the remainder of 1568. In March 1569, the Royalists under Marshal Gaspard de Tavannes (1509-73) engaged in battle with Condes forces in the region between Angouleme and Cognac. Later in March, Tavanne crossed the Charente River near Chateauneuf and soundly defeated the Huguenots at the Battle of Jarmac. Although Conde was captured and murdered, Coligny managed to withdraw a portion of the Protestant army in good order. About three months later, help for the Huguenots arrived in the form of 13,000 German Protestant reinforcements. This enlarged force laid siege to Poitiers. Then on August 24, 1569, Col-igny sent Comte Gabriel de Montgomery (c. 1530-74) to Orthez, where he repulsed a Royalist invasion of French-held Navarre and defeated Catholic forces arranged against him. Royalist marshal Tavanne then relieved Poitiers and forced Coligny to raise the siege. The major battle of the Third War of Religion occurred on October 3, 1569, at Moncontour. The Royalists, aided by a force of Swiss sympathizers, forced the Huguenot cavalry off the field and then crushed the Huguenot infantry. The Huguenots lost about 8,000, whereas Royalist losses numbered about 1,000. The following year, how­ever, Coligny marched his Huguenot forces through cen­tral France from April through June and began threatening Paris. These actions forced the Peace of St. Germain, which granted many religious freedoms to the Protestants.


A massacre of 3,000 Protestants and their leader Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), precipitated the out­break of the Fourth War of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in France. After the massacre of St. Bartholo­mew’s Eve in Paris, August 24, 1572, Prince Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) took charge of the Protestant forces. Marked primarily by a long siege of La Rochelle by Royalist forces under another Prince Henry, the younger brother of Charles IX (1550-74), this Fourth War of Religion resulted in the Protestants’ gaining military control over most of southwest France. However, at least 3,000 more Huguenots were massacred in the provinces before the war ended.

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre outraged even Catholic moderates, who, seeking to counter the extremes of the Catholic Royalists, formed a new political party, the Politiques, to negotiate with the Protestants and establish peace and national unity.


Protestants and Catholics in France had been fighting spo­radically since 1562 in the First War of RELIGION, the Sec­ond War of RELIGION, the Third War of RELIGION, and the Fourth War of RELIGION when violence again erupted in 1575. In the most important action of this war, Henry, duc de Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic Royalists to victory at the Battle of Dorman. Aligned against Guise, however, were not only the Protestants under Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) but also the Politiques, moderate Catholics who wanted the king to make peace with the Protestants and restore national unity. Henry III (1551-89) was not wholeheartedly in support of Guise, and he offered pledges of more religious freedom to the Protestants at the Peace of Mousieur, signed on May 5,1576. Guise refused to accept the terms of the peace and began negotiating with Philip II (1527-98) of Spain to organize a Holy League and secure Spain’s help in capturing the French throne.


The Sixth War of Religion between the Catholics and Protestants in France included only one campaign and was settled by the Peace of Bergerac of 1577. During this period, Henry III (1551-89) tried to persuade the Holy League, formed in 1576 by Catholic leader Henry, duke de Guise (1555-88), and Philip II (1527-98) of Spain, to support an attack on the Protestants. Henry succeeded in subduing the Protestants but wavered in his determina­tion to carry out the terms of the Peace of Bergerac.

[….]

The Seventh War of Religion in 1580, also known as the “Lovers’ War,” had little to do with hostilities between the Catholics and Protestants. Instead fighting was instigated by the actions of Margaret, the promiscu­ous wife of Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610). Over the next five years, Catholics, Protestants, and the moderate Politiques (see RELIGION, FOURTH WAR OF; RELIGION, FIFTH WAR OF) all engaged in intrigue in their attempts to name a successor to the childless Henry III. Although Henry of Navarre was next in line by direct heredity, the Holy League maneuvered to ensure that Henry, duc de Guise, would gain the throne after the reign of Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612), proposed as the successor to Henry III.


Battle of Coutas (October 20th, 1587 ~ During the Eight War)

The Eighth War of Religion, also known as the “War of the Three Henrys,” pitted the Royalist Henry III (1551-89), Henry of Navarre (1553-1610), and Henry de Guise (1555-88) against each other in a struggle over succession to the French throne. The war began when Henry III withdrew many of the concessions he had granted to the Protestants during his reign. At the Battle of Coutras on October 20, 1587, the army of Henry of Navarre, 1,500 cavalry and 5,000 infantry, smashed the Royalist cavalry-1,700 lancers—and 7,000 infantry. More than 3,000 Royalists were killed; Protestant deaths totaled 200. Especially effective against the Royalist was the massed fire of the Protestant arquebuses, primitive muskets.

Despite the Protestant victory at Coutras, the Catholics under Henry of Guise prevailed at Vimoy and Auneau and checked the advance of a German army marching into the Loire Valley to aid to Protestants. Henry’s next victory was in Paris, where he forced the king to capitulate in May 1588. In subsequent intrigues, Henry de Guise and his brother Cardinal Louis I de Guise (1527-78) were assassinated. Fleeing the Catholics’ rage over the murders, Henry Ill sought refuge with Protestant leader Henry of Navarre. The king failed to find perma­nent safety and was assassinated, stabbed to death, by a Catholic monk on August 2, 1589. On his deathbed, the king named Henry of Navarre his successor. The Catholics refused to acknowledge him king, insisting instead that Cardinal Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612) was the right­ful ruler of France. This conflict sparked the NINTH WAR OF RELIGION.


The naming of Henry of Navarre (1553-1610) as successor to the French throne sparked the final War of Religion between Protestant Huguenots and Catholics in France. Insisting that Charles, duke de Bourbon (1566-1612), was the rightful successor to Henry III (1551-89), the Catholics enlisted the aid of the Spanish. Charles, duke of Mayenne (1554-1611), the younger brother of Henry of Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic efforts.

At the Battle of Argues on September 21,1589, Henry of Navarre (1553-1660) ambushed Mayenne’s army of 24,000 French Catholic and Spanish soldiers. Having lost 600 men, Mayenne withdrew to Amiens, while the victorious Navarre, whose casualties numbered 200 killed or wounded, rushed toward Paris.

A Catholic garrison near Paris repulsed Navarre’s advance on November 1, 1589. Not to be daunted in his quest for the throne, Henry withdrew but promptly proclaimed himself Henry IV and established a temporary capital at Tours.

Henry of Navarre won another important battle at Ivry on March 14, matching 11,000 troops against Mayenne’s 19,000. Mayenne lost 3,800 killed, whereas Navarre suffered only 500 casualties.

Civil war continued unabated. Between May and August 1590, Paris was reduced to near starvation dur­ing Navarre’s siege of the city. Maneuvers continued, especially in northern France until May 1592; however, in July 1593 Henry of Navarre reunited most of the French populace by declaring his return to the Catholic faith. His army then turned to counter a threat of inva­sion by Spain and the French Catholics allied with Mayenne.

On March 21, 1594, Henry of Navarre entered Paris in triumph and over the next few years battled the invading Spanish: at Fontaine-Francaise on June 9, 1596, at Calais on April 9, 1596, and at Amiens on September 17, 1596. No further major campaigns ensued.

On April 13, 1598, Henry of Navarre ended the decades of violence between the Catholics and the Protes­tants by issuing the Edict of Nantes, whereby he granted religious freedom to the Protestants. Then on May 2, 1598, the war with Spain ended with the Treaty of Vervins, whereby Spain recognized Henry as king of France. The next major conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in France occurred 27 years later when the Protestants rose in revolt in 1625 and the English joined their cause in the ANGLO-FRENCH WAR (1627-1628).

➤ Further reading: R. J. Knecht, The French Civil Wars, 1562-1598 (New York: Pearson Education, 2000); R. J. Knecht and Mabel Segun, French Wars of Religion (New York: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1996).

Three Article On Pacifism and Just War Theory (+Dennis Prager)

JUMP TO:

  1. Matthew Alexander Flannagan, “Thank God for New Zealand Anti-Terrorist Squad
  2. Keith Pavlischek, “Can a Pacifist Tell a Counterterrorism Strategy?
  3. J. Daryl Charles, “Can a Pacifist Tell a Counterterrorism Strategy?

 

The following is taken from Philosophia Christi Vol. 18 Num. 1 (Summer 2016). You can purchase back issues (this current issue) HERE. These articles were in response to two pacifist authors theologians. I did not include them herein, but you can see the index of the issue I am excerpting from in order to see the other authors on the opposing side of this debate, HERE. Here is a description of this journal issue:

  • The Summer 2016 issue features a new and updated discussion on “Just War as Deterrence Against Terrorism” with contributions from Paul Copan, Myles Werntz, Gregory Boyd, Matthew Flannagan, Keith Pavlischek, and J. Daryl Charles. These papers offer philosophically attentive engagements from pacifists and just war advocates.

  • Matthew Alexander Flannagan, “Thank God for New Zealand Anti-Terrorist Squad,” Philosophia Christi Vol. 18 Num. 1 (Summer 2016), pp. 129-135.

[p.129>] ABSTRACT: On November 14, 1990, David Gray’s twenty-two hour shooting spree ended when the New Zealand Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) shot Gray dead. In this paper I argue that Chris­tians should support the existence of state agencies like the ATS who are authorized to use lethal force. Alongside the duty we as Christians have to love our neighbors, live at peace with others and to not repay evil for evil, God has authorized the government to use force when necessary to uphold a just peace within the geographical area over which it has jurisdiction.

1

“Aramoana,” in Maori, means “pathway of the sea.” It is the name of a small coastal town, population 261, which is located about 27 kilometers (15 miles) North East of Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. When I did my doctoral studies in Dunedin, my family and I visited Aramoana. The town is friendly and peaceful, and it has spectacular wild life and scenery. With flat whites—frothy New Zealand coffee beverages—from the local café in hand, we took in the breathtaking beauty of the harbor, walked along the shell-covered, white sandy beach, and enjoyed up-close encounters with dozens of sea lions on the rocky point. All the while we were watching albatrosses fly into the land on the hill across the harbor. The hill on the other side of the harbor is one of the few places in the world where albatrosses make contact with land on their long journey from Antarctica to Argentina across the South Pacific.

Aramoana is not known in New Zealand for any of these features. Ara-moana is a name forever etched in the memory of New Zealanders for a very different reason. On the evening of November 13, 1990, Aramoana resident, David Gray, had a verbal dispute with his neighbor. He then went on a shooting rampage.

For twenty-two hours Gray terrorized the people of Aramoana who, unable to flee, hid in their homes while he stalked the tiny township hunting them down and shooting everyone he found. Gray would not be reasoned with or negotiated with; he opened fire on everyone.

[p.130>] The terror ended at 5:50 p.m. the next day. Gray charged police, firing at them with a semiautomatic rifle; the police returned fire and Gray was fatally wounded. He died at 6:10 p.m. en route to Dunedin’s hospital after having taken thirteen members of his community—including four children and a police officer—with him to the grave. He left another three wounded: two children and another police officer.

In New Zealand police do not typically carry firearms; at least they did not back then. The police who shot Gray that day were members of a special unit called the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). The ATS is authorized to respond to terrorist activity with lethal force if necessary, and after Gray pretended to surrender and then shot a police officer dead, the ATS issued a shoot-on-sight order. Although Gray was a lone individual, had he been acting on behalf of an organization, the result would have been the same: he would have been shot.

The question I want to ask in my essay is this: As Christians, should we condemn the existence of state agencies like the ATS who are authorized to use lethal force? Is there justification for the existence of state forces, armed with automatic weapons, for this purpose?

2

A widely-held view among my fellow theologians is that there is no justification for the state to use lethal force, even against terrorism. I once raised the question of David Gray’s killing at an Auckland panel discussion in which I was participating. The topic was on the ethics of killing. The response I received from those theologians present with pacifist tendencies was evasive. While none of them seemed able to bring themselves to pub­licly condemn the state authorized killing of David Gray, they did not approve of it either. The general response was to cite Jesus’s teachings to love your enemies, refrain from seeking revenge and overcome evil with good. Encouragement was given to those listening to think on how these things can be reconciled with the concept of allowing governments to kill.

I want to look a little more closely at what Paul had to say on these things. My starting assumption is that Paul was a faithful expositor of Jesus’s teaching; in Romans 12:17-20 Paul expounded on Jesus’s teaching on this topic as follows:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
[p.131>] if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Note the words Paul uses here. Paul talks about not taking “revenge” upon those who do “evil”; instead he instructs us to leave room for the “wrath of God.” Note also that the reason he gives for this: taking revenge is a kind of metaphysical vigilantism. The right to take revenge belongs to God; if his readers take revenge, they are usurping for themselves an authority they don’t have.

Many stop reading there; however, the text immediately proceeds into Romans 13:1-6:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are es­tablished by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condem­nation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a min­ister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Paul is saying that the governing authorities that exist on earth have been “ordained by God,” that they do not “bear the sword” for nothing, and that God’s servant is an “avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” The words I have italicized in the passages from chapter 12 are the same (or cognate) words in the Greek as the words I highlighted in the pas­sages from chapter 13.

Paul is saying that governments not only do these things but that they have the authority of God to do so. “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (v.2); whoever rebels against them “is rebelling against what God has instituted” (v.3); and, it is necessary to submit to governments “not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience” (v.5). Governments, therefore, act as God’s servants when they do so.

The chapter division between chapter 12 and chapter 13 is not in the original text; so these passages should be read together. When they are, these verses show Paul drawing a distinction between authorized and unauthor­ized uses of force. The very thing Paul’s audience lacks the authority to do in regard to not repaying evil for evil is what the government has been given the legitimate authority by God to do.

In other contexts, this distinction between what governments have a right to do and what private individuals have a right to do is commonplace.

[p.132>] It would be wrong and criminal for a private citizen to take another person’s property by force, even if they believed the money was going to a worthy cause. However, governments do this all the time when they impose taxes. It would be blackmail and false imprisonment for me to lay down laws for my neighbor to obey and then deprive her of her liberty if she fails to comply. Yet governments can legitimately lay down laws for others and incarcerate criminals who do not comply with them. Governments hold a monopoly on certain uses of force and, hence, have rights to use force that private citizens do not. The fact that people who don’t hold any political office have duties to refrain from certain forms of violence, force, and retribution does not mean that governments have the same duty.

3

Classically the just war theory is based on the premise that Paul appears to affirm: that a government has the right and duty to use force to uphold a just peace within the geographical area over which it has jurisdiction. If a criminal attempts to rape or kill a person within the geographical realm over which a government has authority, then that government can justifiably use force to prevent this, and it can also legitimately use force to try and punish anyone who does these things—hence, the existence of a legislature, police force, courts, and prisons.

Just war theorists simply argue that there seems no reason why this would not extend to when the person committing the offence is a soldier from another country as opposed to a domestic criminal. In his book Princi­ples of Conduct, John Murray captures this idea well when he asks: “by what kind of logic can it be maintained that the magistrate, who is invested with the power of the sword (Romans 13:4), may and must execute vengeance upon evil doers within his own domain but must sheath the sword of resistance when evil doers from without invade his domain.”1 Just war theorists argue that for a war to be just, it must meet six requirements (though the sixth is often divided into two):

(1) It must be fought for a just cause and aim.

(2) It must be prosecuted by someone with the lawful authority to do so.

(3) It must be a last resort.

(4) There must be a reasonable chance of success in prosecuting the aims.

(5) The cost incurred by going to war must not be greater than the evil being opposed.

[p.133>] (6) The force used in prosecuting the war must be both proportionate and discriminate, force must be aimed at combatants and not non­combatants.

These criteria come from reflection on the circumstances in which govern­ments are permitted to us force to uphold justice in general. Criteria (1) and (2), read together, reflect the notion that private citizens do not have a right to pass laws binding on—in the present case—all New Zealand citizens and back these up with force—only the government can do this. It is only morally permissible for the government to do this when it does so to uphold justice—to protect people living within its borders from injustice and to punish those guilty of crimes. Governments do not have the right to take people’s life, liberty or property at whim.

The idea of war being a last resort, (3), is also simply an extension of principles of normal governance. The police are expected to not use force unless arrest is resisted. If they are dealing with a hostage situation, they try to negotiate with the hostage-taker first. However, in the world we live in, hostage-takers sometimes start shooting, people refuse to come quietly, or they pretend to surrender so they can gain an opportunity to do more harm; force then becomes necessary and justified, albeit regrettably so.

It is also a principle of normal governance that things need to be fea­sible; this comes through in (4), the government should not authorize force, even to prosecute a just cause, unless it believes there is a reasonable chance of success in doing so. It is unjust to ask persons to sacrifice their property, resources, freedom, or themselves in vain for an end that cannot actually be achieved.

There are plenty of unjust actions that governments do not criminalize or aggressively prosecute because the evils of doing so are greater than sim­ply tolerating the offense. It is unjust to be lied to. It is unjust for people to give insults. It does not follow that the government should invest time and resources trying to prevent these actions through legislation and enforcement. Police often refuse to prosecute offenses they consider trivial or not worth police time and resources; they limit their focus to what is serious. We do not expect the police to do anything about liars, but we do expect them to act against serial killers and rapists because the evil being done by the latter outweighs these concerns. War is not in a special category here, which is the idea behind (5): the cost incurred by going to war must not be greater than the evil being opposed.

Finally, we get to (6)—the idea that any force used must be proportion­ate and discriminate. If a state uses force justly, then the force used will be proportionate to the injustice being rectified. A just government imposes more severe coercive penalties on a premeditated killer than it does against a teenager who smashes windows. While someone smashing my windows is engaging in unjust aggression against my property, the force used to stop this [p.134>] should be more measured than that employed in a hostage situation where the criminal has started killing hostages.

The force must also be discriminate. Paul’s contention is that the gov­ernment “are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” When functioning as God’s servant, “rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” Governments can justly use force against people engaging in aggression against citizens but not in­tentionally against third parties who are not engaging in this aggression.

Of course, no war ever meets these criteria perfectly but neither does any court system, legislature, or police force. Even in a relatively just soci­ety, courts make mistakes and innocent people go to jail. Sometimes armed police mistakenly shoot the wrong person. There are difficult situations where criminals use human shields. Even in a relatively just society, there are corrupt police and judges. None of this inclines us to reject the idea that a government has the right and duty to use force to uphold justice within the geographical area over which it has jurisdiction.

We accept that people are fallible. We expect that governments should take reasonable precautions to avoid such errors and that rules governing investigation, evidence, corruption, and so on will be put in place and that honest attempts will be made to enforce them. We know that, despite this, the system will still fail on occasion and innocent people will be harmed, and we accept this. We don’t demand an end to courts, police or legislation because of this. Just war theory submits that we should take the same approach to force used by the state against external aggressors.

This conclusion applies whether the external aggressor is a uniformed soldier in a conventional army or a terrorist, who is ostensibly a member of the civilian population whose aim is to indiscriminately kill and maim people. As Alexander Pruss argues, “When the invading army marches in, burning crops and murdering citizens, they are breaking the victim country’s laws. If problematic violence is permitted to enforce the laws of one’s ter­ritory, it should be permissible to use problematic violence to stop them.”2 Terrorists kill and burn in the same way the soldiers of invading armies do, and their actions are no less contrary to the victim country’s laws.

4

The events at Aramoana on November 13, 1990, brought home an un­pleasant truth to New Zealanders who were used to believing these kinds of things happen overseas, typically in America, and not here at home. This truth is that there are people in the world who intentionally terrorize and indiscriminately kill men, women, and children, and who can only be realis‑ [p.135>] tically stopped with violence. For that reason, the New Zealand government has the ATS.

Alongside the duty we as Christians have to love our neighbors, live at peace with others—as much as it depends on us—and not repay evil for evil, God has ordained the government to use force when necessary. It is not “either-or.” It is “both-and.”


Footnotes


1. John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1957), 115.

2. Alexander Pruss, “Pacifism,”

  • Keith Pavlischek, “Can a Pacifist Tell a Counterterrorism Strategy?” Philosophia Christi Vol 18 Num. 1 (Summer 2016), pp. 137-145.

[p.137>] ABSTRACT: In this essay I distinguish between classic Christian pacifists who embrace the dual­ism of the Schleitheim Confession, who believe that it is unjust, immoral, and in opposition to the teachings of Jesus for Christians to fight in wars or, more generally ever to threaten or employ lethal force, and modern Christian pacifists who believe this proscription also extends to secular government officials and legislators. For distinct reasons, neither have much to say to Christian just warriors or public officials seeking ways to combat the scourge of terrorism. I conclude by suggesting that attempts to find a “third way” between just war and either form of pacifism are theologically perilous.

I’m gonna lay down my heavy load down by the riverside, /down by the riverside /down by the riverside. /I’m gonna lay down my heavy load / down by the riverside, / and I ain’t gonna study war no more.

I ain’t gonna study war no more; / I ain’t gonna study war no more; / I ain’t gonna study war no more; /I ain’t gonna study war no more; /I ain’t gonna study war no more; / I ain’t gonna study war no more.

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield /down by the riverside, /down by the riverside, /down by the riverside. /I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield /down by the riverside, /And I ain’t gonna study war no more.

Christian just warriors and pacifists can both sing that old spiritual, “Down By the Riverside,” and mean what they say. But what they mean to say is profoundly different. The just warrior has no problem singing along so long as the declaration, “I ain’t gonna study war no more” is understood as an eschatological hope and expectation. Swords will be beat into plowshares,1 to be sure, but not until after the Lord returns. Unlike the pacifist, or, if you [p.138>] prefer, the Christian committed exclusively to “nonviolence,”2 the Christian just warrior thinks that it would be unwise and unjust to cease and desist from the study of war prior to the coming of the Lord. He will resist the in­clination to “immanentize the eschaton.”3

When Christian pacifists sing, “I ain’t gonna study war no more,” they take this to be a requirement of the Gospel in the here and now and resist the idea that this is merely an eschatological hope. Pacifists insist that to be a faithful disciple of the Prince of Peace you really shouldn’t go about studying war, which means eschewing, one would think, military strategy, operational art, tactics, force structure, weapons development and employ­ment military history and the like.

For some Christian pacifists—what I call classical Christian pacifists (or perhaps sectarian Christian pacifists)—the moral requirement proscribing the study of war extends only to Christians. This seems to be the view of the Schleitheim Articles of 1527 (widely regarded as the theological consolida­tion of Anabaptist pacifism),

Concerning the sword we have reached the following agreement: The sword is ordained by God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and kills people and protects and defends the good. In the law the sword is established to punish and to kill the wicked, and secular au­thorities are established to use it.

This classical Christian pacifist position declares that while Christians “ain’t gonna study war no more” it is nevertheless a good thing that some­body does, namely “secular authorities.” This is why they leave no doubt that not only should Christians not study or practice warfare, but that Christians really shouldn’t be serving as secular authorities.

[I]t is asked about the sword, whether a Christian may hold a posi­tion of governmental authority if he is chosen for it. This is our reply: Christ should have been made a king, but he rejected this (John 6:15) and did not view it as ordained by his father. We should do likewise and follow him. In this way we will not walk into the snares of dark‑ [p.139>] ness…. Also, Christ himself forbids the violence of the sword and says, ‘Worldly princes rule,’ etc, ‘but not you’ (Matthew 20:25).

…[I]t is not fitting for a Christian to be a magistrate because the authorities’ governance is according to the flesh, but the Christian’s is according to the spirit. Their houses and dwellings remain in this world, but the Christian’s is in heaven. Their weapons of conflict and war are carnal and only directed against the fortifications of the devil. Worldly people are armed with spikes and iron, but Christians are armed with the armor of God.4

Now, this is a rather old-fashioned type of Christian pacifism, and my gen­eral impression is that many contemporary Christian pacifists are rather em­barrassed by it. When I bring this old-fashioned sectarian pacifism to the attention of my pacifist friends, the typical response is, “But there are many different types of Christian pacifism,” or “We have ‘developed’ beyond that,” or something along those lines. But rarely do contemporary pacifists take up the challenge to explain exactly why this position is unbiblical, or unwise, or impractical, such that more knowledgeable, mature, and progressive twenty-first-century Christian pacifists should reject it.

I suspect that the modern Christian pacifist is embarrassed by this form of classical or sectarian pacifism, because it clearly holds that secular rulers have the authority from God himself to use lethal force to protect and defend the good. These classical pacifists didn’t feel compelled to create ever-in­creasingly novel ways to reinterpret the clear thrust of Romans 13:1-7. The sword for them is ordained “outside the perfection of Christ” to be sure, but it is nevertheless ordained by God per Romans 13. But for many of our con­temporary Christian pacifists who have “gone beyond” or “developed” this classical position, the sword, it would seem, is ordained never and nowhere.5

[p.140>] For these modern Christian pacifists, the gospel’s demand to be “peacemak­ers” and advocates of nonviolence, and the gospel’s purported prohibition on the threat and use of lethal “violence” (and probably nonlethal violence as well), and the insistence that Christians cease and desist-from “studying war” also extends to secular rulers. Modern Christian pacifists insist that not only should Christians be singing “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More” (and insist that it is not merely an eschatological hope and expectation), but so should all presidents, and senators, members of Congress, diplomats, and even the military. At best, these “secular rulers” should be studying nonviolent con­flict resolutions strategies.

Some modern Christian pacifists go even further in their condemnation of those who study war. The New Testament scholar (and current Duke Di­vinity School President), Richard B. Hays, for instance, finds military ser­vice so obviously unbiblical and profoundly anti-Christian, that he has stated publicly, at an Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting in 2000, that he considers Christian military chaplains who attempt to recruit seminary stu­dents for the Chaplain Corps to be committing a form of prostitution-tanta­mount to a “Pimps for Jesus” organization.6

So, what can Christian just warriors learn about counterterrorism from either (1) classical evangelical pacifists of the old-fashioned Schleitheim Confession variety or (2) modern evangelical pacifists of the Richard Hays variety? What can either of these forms of Christian pacifism contribute to an informed discussion of how to structure a coherent counterterrorism strategy that is part of a broader military and national defense strategy? I would sug­gest that from a just war perspective neither form of pacifism (and that would include a variety of offshoots from these positions)7 has much to offer to the Christian just warrior.

First, what are we just warriors to make of a modern Christian pacifist such as Richard Hays? If you are inclined to think that military chaplains are the moral equivalent of pimps, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to think this would apply a fortiori to Christians who serve in the military since the work of military chaplains doesn’t center on devising strategies and plans to fight terrorists and who certainly don’t serve as “trigger pullers,” who do the actual fighting and killing. Aside from that, what could a Richard Hays or his many followers possibly have to say to a Christian who does study war, or, more to the point, does study counterterrorism strategy and doctrine? The [p.141>] answer is rather obvious. These kinds of pacifists really can’t say much more than “You ought to find another line of work.”

That is to say, modem Christian pacifists such as Richard Hays seem to believe that the professional calling of being a soldier or an armed police officer prepared to use lethal force is an illegitimate profession and call-ing—certainly for the Christian and seemingly for the non-Christian as well. This is not unlike being a pimp or a prostitute, an illegitimate calling for a Christian certainly, but for the non-Christian as well. The owner of a brothel dedicated to running a successful business isn’t likely to expect wise counsel on how to run a successful enterprise from a Christian pastor or theologian who believes that his entire enterprise is intrinsically immoral in the first place, or who believes that the “office and calling” of being a pimp cannot be a legitimate calling for a Christian, or anybody else, for that matter. The Christian who believes that pimping and brothel management are intrinsical­ly immoral activities, and who believes that the owners and managers of the brothel should repent of such sinful activity—”go and sin no more”—isn’t in a particularly good position to provide recommendations on the best sexual tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs in military parlance) required to run a successful prostitution enterprise.

Likewise, the last place you are going to go for wise advice and counsel if you are an expert in counterterrorism strategy, operations, and tactics is to a disciple of Richard Hays or other contemporary neo-Anabaptist theolo­gians. If military strategy and war fighting are an art and a craft, which they are, and if the prudent application of military force is an indispensable part of any coherent counterterrorism strategy, which it is, then you aren’t going to get particularly wise counsel from pacifists who think that the art of war is intrinsically immoral or who believe (to state it in theological terms) that the sword is ordained by God never and nowhere.

What about the classical Christian pacifist? While the sectarian paci­fist believes his Christian just war neighbor really shouldn’t be “studying war no more,” really shouldn’t be studying counterterrorism strategy, and really shouldn’t serve as a combatant in the fight against terrorists, he would have, in principle, little problem with military force being part and parcel of a national military strategy and national security strategy to combat ter­rorism. After all, the classical Christian (sectarian) pacifist believes, in ac­cordance with the Schleitheim Confession, the following: “In the law the sword is established to punish and to kill the wicked and secular authorities are established to use it.” Classical (or sectarian) Christian pacifists, unlike modern Christian pacifists, do not believe that service in the military is an intrinsically evil profession, per se. They simply believe it is an intrinsically evil profession for Christians. The classical Christian pacifist would surely not want non-Christian secular authorities to sing “Ain’t gonna study war no more” other than as an eschatological hope and expectation, for how else are [p.142>] those “outside the perfection of Christ” going to learn how to properly “pun­ish and kill the wicked,” including terrorists!

It is precisely because the classical Christian pacifist understands that secular authorities must “study war” while they reject for themselves the study of war that the sectarian pacifist would be generally not be inclined to “give advice to Caesar” on national military strategy in general and counter­terrorism strategy and tactics in particular. “What do I know?” the classical Christian pacifist will ask, “about those skills and procedures that are ‘out­side the perfection of Christ’? What do I know about the best and most effec­tive use of unmanned aerial vehicles, whether our national military strategy should have a counterterrorist focus at this time in this particular region of the world, while it should have more of a counterinsurgency focus in this particular region, or whether we should use coercive diplomacy at this time, but military direct action at other times, etc.?” You’ve got to study a little war and statecraft to become knowledgeable on those sorts of issues.

So the Christian just warrior will not expect the modern Christian paci­fist to provide informed and wise advice on how to address the scourge of terrorism because the latter believes to fight such terrorism using military force is intrinsically evil (like owning and managing a brothel). Nor will the Christian just warrior expect such advice from the classical pacifist. But he will not expect advice from the sectarian pacifist for a different reason. The classical Christian pacifist is likely to abstain from giving advice because, by his own account, he is in no position to do so, and being a wise Christian pacifist, he doesn’t want to talk on things he is no position to discuss. The classical pacifist will indeed sing “I ain’t gonna study war no more” but would immediately add that he isn’t about to give advice on the tactics and strategy of warfighting to those who do.

Christian pacifists of both sorts would do well, then, to understand that they really don’t have much to offer the Christian just warrior on counter­terrorism by way of informed advice. Now, I suspect many pacifists will concede this point but are not willing to give up “engaging in dialogue” with Christian just warriors. Christian pacifists may not be able to provide wise counsel on counterterrorism policy, but at least they can embrace the role of keeping Christian just warriors honest, by insisting that we hold to the jus ad bellum and jus in bello principles to which we claim to subscribe. In prin­ciple, of course, there should be nothing particularly problematic about this, as long as the pacifist doesn’t rig the game, and insist upon jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria that are aligned to what these pacifist desire they should be, rather than what they really are.

Anyone involved in debates about just war and pacifism over the past few decades can’t fail to recognize this problem. Michael Walzer (a secular Democratic socialist with no Christian, evangelical, or conservative axe to grind) summarizes what happens all too frequently when pacifists enter into [p.143>] the debate on the use of force and seek to instruct just warriors on the re­quirements of the jus ad bellum and jus in bello.

Many clerics, journalists, and professors, however, have invented a wholly different interpretation and use, making the theory more and more stringent, particularly with regard to civilian deaths. In fact, they have reinterpreted it to a point where it is pretty much impossible to find a war or conflict that can be justified. Historically, just war theory was meant to be an alternative to Christian pacifism; now, for some of its advocates, it is pacifism’s functional equivalent — a kind of cover for people who are not prepared to admit that there are no wars they will support.8

As I have argued elsewhere,9 following the lead of James Turner Johnson and others, this cryptopacifist or functional pacifist approach of the just war tradition tends to wreak havoc on both the jus ad bellum and jus in bello such that, for example, the prudential jus ad bellum criterion of “last resort” is rendered a supercriterion of the traditional deontological criteria of legiti­mate authority, just cause and right intention while the jus in bello principle of proportionality gets distorted beyond recognition as does the relationship between discrimination (or distinction) and proportionality. But this way of viewing the just war tradition also has rather pernicious theological conse­quences that both Christian just warriors and Christian pacifists alike should reject.

The theological roots of this cryptopacifism or functional pacifism or the jus bellum contra bellum is the mistaken belief that Christian just war theory really is what Darrell Cole refers to as “a limited exception to gen­eral pacifism.”10 Whether it takes the form of Niebuhrian realism or Just Peacemaking or whatever is the latest third-way theological developments trying to strike a so-called middle way between just war and pacifism, these various approaches toward and understandings of the Christian just war tra­dition tend to boil down to the belief that while Jesus wants his disciples to completely eschew the resort to force and to embrace nonviolence, we can’t be absolutists, especially in a world of totalitarians (in the twentieth century) and ruthless terrorists (in the twenty-first). Motivated by what is no doubt a sincere attempt to find “common ground,” too many pacifists and nonpacifists alike assume that just war doctrine is fundamentally a “limited excep­tion to pacifism.” But it isn’t.

[p.144>] Christian pacifists, of course, think that just war theory developed pre­cisely because early Christians had to figure out a way to harmonize their nonviolent assumptions with the desire to aid their neighbors with acts of force. This is factually wrong. Pacifists cannot point to a single Church Father who helped develop the Christian just war doc­trine out of “nonviolent assumptions.” On the contrary, just war theory arose out of assumptions of justice and the virtue of charity. Assump­tions of nonviolence had nothing to do with the genesis of Christian just war theory.11

Because, as Cole notes, the view that Christian just war is a limited excep­tion to pacifism was unheard of prior to the twentieth century, any number of Christian theologians could be mustered to prove the point. But because it is directly relevant to the issue of terrorism I will simply cite the following passage from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:

But here a seemingly hard and difficult question arises: if the law of God forbids all Christians to kill (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21)… how can magistrates be pious men and shedders of blood at the same time? Yet, if we understand that the magistrate in administering punishments does nothing by himself, but carries out the very judgments of God, we shall not be hampered by this scruple. The law of the Lord forbids killing; but, that murderers may not go unpunished, the Lawgiver himself puts into the hands of his ministers a sword to be drawn against all murderers….

Now if their [i.e., civil magistrates] true righteousness is to pursue the guilty and the impious with drawn sword, should they sheathe their sword and keep their hands clean of blood, while abandoned men wickedly range about with slaughter and massacre, they will be­come guilty of the greatest impiety, far indeed from winning praise for their goodness and righteousness thereby!

But kings and people must sometimes take up arms to execute such a public vengeance. On this basis we may judge wars lawful which are so undertaken. For if power has been given them to preserve the tran­quility of their dominion . . . can they use it more opportunely than to check the flay of one who disturbs both the repose of private individu­als and the common tranquility of all?…. Therefore, both natural equity and the nature of the office dictate that princes must be armed not only to restrain the misdeeds of private individuals by judicial [p.145>] punishment, but also to defend by war the dominions entrusted to their safekeeping, if at any time they are under enemy attack.12

Two points are worth highlighting here. First, Calvin argues a fortiori that if it is reasonable and just to expect the civil authorities to punish private in­dividuals who murder and go about committing other criminal activity, then it must be much more reasonable and just when such activity threatens not merely “the repose of private individuals” but the entire commonwealth, the entire society, or as Calvin puts it, “the common tranquility of all.”13

Second, Calvin is making a critical point that gets to the core of the difference between Christian pacifism and Christian just war. Calvin insists that it would be impious; it would be disobedient to the Lord for the civil magistrate not to wield the sword in defense of the innocent and in defense of the commonweal when, like modern terrorists, “abandoned men wickedly range about with slaughter and massacre.” It would be disobedient to God for the civil authorities to sheathe the sword and keep it clean from blood, if that is what is required to execute justice on those terrorists and terror­ist organizations who wickedly range about with slaughter and massacre. Calvin, and again, not only Calvin for he is simply summarizing the broader Christian theological tradition here, is not suggesting that the civil magistrate is doing evil so that good may come when he—Christian or not—unsheathes his sword. To the contrary, he is teaching that it is evil, for even the Chris­tian magistrate, or the Christian soldier, to keep that sword clean of blood if wisdom and prudence dictates that shedding the blood of terrorists is nec­essary to protect the innocent and to defend the commonwealth from their wickedness. The necessary corollary to this position is that modern Christian pacifists, in arguing that civil authorities disobey God by refusing to protect the commonwealth are themselves urging impiety and are counseling those in civil authority to disobey the Lord. In an age of terrorism, we would do well to recover that fundamental theological insight of the Christian just war tradition.


Footnotes


1. Mic. 4:3: “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

2. I use the terms “pacifist” and “advocate of nonviolence” interchangeably. It is fashionable for Christian pacifists these days to declare that they prefer the term “nonviolence” to “pacifism” because the latter term seems to imply that they are “passive” in the face of injustice, and they want to stress that their advocacy of nonviolence is not passive but “active.” By this they seek to stress that they do not merely advocate passive nonviolent nonresistance, but also various forms of nonviolent direct action, protests, sit-ins, political activity and the like—the sort modeled by Jesus on the way to the cross. How pacifists (or advocates of nonviolence) can claim to adopt a posture that models the nonviolent, nonresistance of Jesus—”the way of the cross”—while also embracing the latter is a mystery to me. To be sure Jesus didn’t resort to violence on the way to Calvary, but he didn’t engage in nonviolent direct action protest either, and he didn’t implore his disciples to engage in nonviolent direct action to prevent his unjust death.

3. The term is from Eric Voeglin’s The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952).

4. The Schleitheim Confession is available at:

5. See Paul Ramsey’s essay, “Can a Pacifist Tell a Just War?,” in The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility (New York: Scribner, 1968). Ramsey’s justified frustration with the pacifist James Douglas is evident throughout the essay but is summarized in a single paragraph: It is hard to know how to deal with some who, like James Douglas, announces the same premise [Christian perfectionism of Menno Simmons] and yet wishes, in the tradition of the great churches, to continue to talk relevantly about politics. This leads him to the conclusion that the sword is ordained nowhere and never at all—at least not in the modern period. Throughout the centuries these two positions have been locked in struggle within Christian conscience: the sword may sometimes be a Christian’s secular duty and calling or a requirement of civil righteousness (the tradi­tion of the great churches: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism). Douglas abolishes this perennial tension at the heart of a Christian’s double wrestle over the meaning of faithfulness to Christ and the meaning of his faithfulness to his fellow­man and to the claims of political justice. He solves the problem by the simple expe­dient of proclaiming the perfection of responsible politics. He simply declares that justice-making can now be accomplished by suffering love alone, or that the nuclear age has so radically changed the nature of politics today that this can be the only way to secure the political good. (ibid., 262)

6. This interchange with Richard Hays took place at the Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. The paper James Skillen and I presented there was published in this journal: “Political Responsibility and the Use of Force: A Critique of Richard Hays,” Philosophia Christi 3 (2001): 421-45.

7. See David C. Cramer, “A Field Guide to Christian Nonviolence,” Sojourners, January 2016,30-5. This article lists a variety of supposedly different kinds of pacifism. While this sort of taxonomy is somewhat interesting, it does little to clarify either the distinct points of con­tention and disagreement between various forms of pacifism and tends to obscure rather than clarify the fundamental differences they all have with just war doctrine.

8. Michael Walzer, “Responsibility and Proportionality in State and Nonstate Wars,” Parameters (Spring 2009): 42; available at:

9. See Keith Pavlischek, “Proportionality in Warfare,” The New Atlantis (2010): 21-34, which quibbles with Walter’s handling of the principle of double effect and of proportionality. Available at:

10. Darrell Cole, “Listening to Pacifists,” First Things, August 2002,

11. Ibid. Cole perceptively notes that this view “would allow the pacifist a meaningful voice” in contemporary public policy and international affairs.” This goes a long way in explaining why modern pacifists are embarrassed by classical or sectarian pacifism and why so many pacifists are intent on giving “advice to Caesar” regarding international affairs. In any case, as Cole says, this way of looking at the just war doctrine was unheard of before the twentieth century.

12. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.20.10-11 (emphasis in the second para­graph and in the second sentence of the third paragraph added).

13. Aquinas makes a similar a fortiori argument in Summa Theologiae IIaIIae, q.40, a.l.: And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, accord­ing to the words of the Apostle (Rom. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the com­mon weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority.” (The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. the Fathers of the English Dominican Province)

This is a partial excerpt from a larger article…

  • J. Daryl Charles, “Can a Pacifist Tell a Counterterrorism Strategy?” Philosophia Christi Vol 18 Num. 1 (Summer 2016), pp. 153-163.

[p.153>] …Full disclosure on my part is perhaps in order at this point. I grew up in an Anabaptist—and specifically Mennonite—tradition and thus understand and appreciate the pacifist mind-set from the inside. To its credit, the pacifist perspective is sensitive to the violent tendencies that permeate both human experience in general and American culture in particular. In addition, it rec­ognizes diverse—and, in many ways, creative—avenues for social action. In the words of Jean Bethke Elshtain, pacifism puts “violence on trial” in that it views social life from the vantage-point of the potential victim and not the victor.14 Furthermore, it is keenly sensitive to the distortions of faith that come with an uncritical view of the state and fade into nationalism, a continual problem throughout history and not one that is uniquely American. Elsewhere I have critiqued the pacifism of Mennonite theologian John How­ard Yoder,15 whose influence is enormous even outside of narrowly Anabap­tist circles. Yoder’s work is worthy of serious critique, not least because of the thoroughness with which his theological justification of pacifism—errant and unrepresentative of the Christian moral tradition though it is—is built.16 [p.154>] In the end, the convictions represented in this response-essay represent not only my own position but classic “just war” thinking through the ages.17

The Ethico-Hermeneutical Fallacy

At the most basic level, given the natural moral law (as expressed, for example, in the Ten Commandments), it needs emphasis that there is no such thing as a “new morality” introduced in the New Covenant as most religious pacifists maintain. Jesus did not come to set aside the moral law but to af­firm and clarify it (as Matthew 5:17ff. makes quite clear). Murder, adultery, dishonest speech, taking justice into one’s hands (that is, revenge or retali­ation), and enemy-hatred,18 all of which are based on moral law revealed in the Old Testament, are not being set aside by Jesus; they are still prohibited.19 For this reason, Aquinas and the magisterial Protestant reformers distinguished between ceremonial, judicial, and moral law as they read and interpreted Old Testament law. Jesus, Paul, and James all agree: the New Covenant sums up-rather than changes-the ethical standard revealed in the Old?20 Thus, any hermeneutic that creates discontinuity of the moral law between the Old and New Testament is illegitimate and not representative of the historic Christian tradition.21 C. S. Lewis expresses it this way in his essay “On Ethics”:

The idea that Christianity brought an entirely new ethical code into the world is a grave error… for… its Founder, His precursor (the [p.155>] Baptist), [and] His apostles came demanding repentance and offering forgiveness, a demand and offer both meaningless except on the as­sumption of a moral law already known and broken.”22

It is no more possible, Lewis insists, “to invent a new ethic than to place a new sun in the sky.”23

The Textual and Contextual Fallacy

A second error plagues standard pacifist interpretations of Christian moral obligation. The image of “turning the other cheek” is meant to ad­dress issues of the heart—that is, personal reaction to abuse and insult, and personal revenge, not statecraft and public policy.24 This is made clear by the context of Matthew 5:39-42, in which “turning the other cheek” is one of four personal illustrations.25 The other three images are giving the shirt off your back, walking the second mile (likely a conscription to carry some­thing, such as a soldier’s gear, a common Judean occurrence), and giving to anyone who asks. If “turning the other cheek” is universally binding, at any level, then giving the shirt off your back, walking a second mile when com­pelled, and giving to whoever asks—including every irresponsible child and every irresponsible person on the street corner—are as well.

In this light, the text of Romans 12:17-13:6, consisting of two comple­mentary hortatory units needing to be taken together, offers a helpful paral­lel to Matthew 5, as Matthew Flannagan reminds the reader. Justice is pro­scribed in Romans 12 while it is prescribed in Romans 13. While I am free not to defend myself, I am not free not to defend the innocent third party who [156>] is suffering and needing protection.26 Pacifism is an option for individuals but not for communities, neighborhoods, or nations, wherein basic freedoms and rights need protecting, and often forcefully so. Since there will always be thieves, murderers, bandits, rapists, and wrongdoers, and since without the enforcement of law there will always be gangs of these wrongdoers, coercive power will always be a necessity in a relatively just and civil society.27 To not resist evil coercively is a moral absurdity, as Reinhold Niebuhr, Elizabeth Anscombe, and C. S. Lewis (among others) insist.28

The Politico-Cultural Fallacy

Given the pacifist tendency to speak in terms of “violence” or “nonvio­lence,” it needs to be emphasized that a qualitative moral distinction can be made—and should be maintained—between “violence” and “force.” It is for this reason that we conventionally speak of “military force,” not “military violence.” Analogically, it is the difference between romance and rape. Force may be defined as “the measure of power necessary and sufficient to uphold the valid purposes both of law and politics. What exceeds this measure is violence, which destroys the order both of law and politics.”29 Force, then, is morally neutral and can be used for either good or ill.

What needs reiterating in light of pacifism’s utopian tendency is that so­ciety without coercive power is impossible (not to mention fully unbiblical). Law and justice without force is a myth—try not paying your taxes! Justice without force is mythical because there will always exist evil men. And evil men must be hindered, in order that the very goods of human flourishing be [p.157>] protected; otherwise, human sinfulness would destroy everything. Peace at any price is not the Christian position. In the words of Aquinas, “peace is not a virtue, but the fruit of virtue.”30 That is to say, peace is a human good, but it is not an absolute good; peace must be justly ordered. After all, the Mafia, tyrants, terrorists, bandits, and pirates maintain a general orbit of “peace” in which they carry on their business. What then, we may ask, is “criminal justice”? And what happens to society without it? Here pacifism, with its fundamental commitment to “nonviolence,” is tragically irrelevant, despite its best intentions.

I happened to grow up in Pennsylvania, the “Quaker state.” Students of American history will recall that Quakers did have a go of it with their “holy experiment” of Quaker nonviolence. How long did the experiment last? Roughly seventy years (ca. 1680 to 1750). Well before the end, however, the high hopes for a “peaceable kingdom” were disintegrating. Forbidden to use violence, Quaker legislators hired others to fight the Indians, among others. In the end, it needs to be said, there is something very wrong with the religious attitude that basically says (or assumes), “Well, let the Gentiles—the unbelievers—do the messy business of maintaining justice in society.” Neither is this biblical, nor is it just, nor is it charitable.31 Someone must protect the neighborhood. Someone must protect the citizenry. Someone must protect society. Indeed, someone must perform those untidy public services that are often taken for granted, including guarding and transporting the life savings of pacifists from ABC Savings and Loan to XYZ Savings and Loan (as security guards routinely do).

To argue that Christians cannot serve in such positions or that political power (inclusive of “sword-bearing”) is inherently evil or that force cannot serve just purposes (as in fighting terrorism) is simply misguided at best and morally irresponsible at worst. Even the apostle Paul himself requested military protection when his own life was under threat (Acts 23). He does not take matters into his own hands, but asks the rightful authorities to do so—as, in fact, Romans 12 and 13 teach. What’s more, it finds no support from the Christian scriptures. Surely this is why neither Jesus nor John the Baptist nor the apostles ever call soldiers away from their vocation. Accord­ing to Matthew 8:5-15, Jesus commends an officer in the Roman legions for a faith that is truly incomparable: “Assuredly I tell you, I’ve not found such great faith throughout all of Israel.” In a context of repentance, the Baptist exhorts soldiers to do two things: “Don’t intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). Were the pacifist’s arguments [p.158>] valid, we would expect the Baptist to tell the soldiers, “Repent and leave your military service if you confess authentic faith, for the ‘kingdom of God’ is nigh; otherwise, you are practicing idolatry.” Alas, such a call is not forth­coming. And, shockingly, God uses an officer in the Roman legions as the primary vehicle by which to adjust Peter’s theological understanding of the New Covenant (Acts 10:1-11:18). What’s more, this army officer becomes the first Gentile convert to be baptized.

The Philosophical and Theological Fallacy

Yet another point of correction is in order. It concerns the widespread misunderstanding of what constitutes charity or neighbor-love. Charity can take various forms, including coercive force and retributive justice. Augus­tine and Aquinas are at pains to be clear about this. Augustine speaks of benigna asperitas—”benevolent harshness”—in a letter to his friend Mar-cellinus, a Roman official in Carthage, and insists that it is a loving thing to prevent a criminal from further victimizing the community; it is best for” he offender, for the community watching, and for future potential offenders.32 And in the Summa, Aquinas subsumes his discussion of justified war, inter­estingly, under the broader topic of caritas. In the just war tradition—and in the Christian moral tradition—charity and justice are wed; thus, to separate them or place them in opposition is to do irreparable harm to both virtues.33 Justice will always seek a humane, dignified, and morally appropriate way of manifesting itself, while charity will always seek to uphold what is true, right, and just. Neighbor-love and justice, when wed together, yield an or­dered peace both at the international level and in domestic affairs (the latter being what we call “civil society”).

A principal error of pacifism, then, is that it mistakes the principles and forms of charity. Calculating consequences or effects of an action can never establish the rightness or wrongness thereof; rather, its intention and aim determine its moral quality, which in turn inform the means. At bottom, the “just war” criterion of right intention is a principal and necessary expression of “Golden Rule” ethics. Viewed positively, not only do we treat others as [p.159>] we wish to be treated ourselves, but in negative terms we do not treat oth­ers-nor do we permit others to be treated-as we ourselves would not wish to be treated. The implications for humanitarian intervention and for a mor­ally relevant response to terrorism are obvious. In the context of catastrophic geopolitical events, charity will take the form of coming to the aid of the grossly oppressed, for which coercive force will be a moral necessity. For this reason, the West’s failure to prevent genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan in our time remains a scar on our collective conscience.34

It is unsurprising that among religious and secular pacifists alike, Gan­dhi is hailed universally as a model of “nonviolent” resistance. Yet one could well argue that Gandhi’s pacifism was easier in India, a British colony; it could not have existed in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Precisely this doubt was lodged in the mind of George Orwell, who spent years as a jour­nalist in India: “It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard from again.”35 What’s more, most people have either forgotten or are unaware of Gandhi’s advice to European Jews who were being delivered to death camps by the Nazis during WWII. And what was his advice? That they should commit suicide in order to get the world’s attention and speak forcefully to the conscience of nations.36 Consider the unspeakably tragic irony here in Gandhi’s thinking: violence (in fact, any coercive force) is morally prohibited against others, but lethal violence per­petrated against myself (if I am a Jew in a death camp) is permissible. This is neither just nor charitable.

The tragedy of pacifism as a policy, in the face of unspeakable horror, has been expressed by political theorist Michael Walzer in this way:

Nonviolent defense differs from conventional strategies in that it concedes the overrunning of the country that is being defended. It estab‑ [p.160>] lishes no obstacles capable of stopping a military advance or preventing a military occupation…. This is a radical concession, and I don’t think that any government has ever made it willingly.37

Walzer’s point is to take the “nonviolent” position consistently to its logical end, and his point is obvious. There are no cases in which civilian defense, based on “nonviolence,” has caused either an invader to withdraw, a poten­tial invader not to invade, or a tyrant to cease and desist from terrorizing. Merely to say with the religious pacifist that as public policy we should fol­low the example of the “crucified Lamb” will not do. Not to resist is to con­done the evildoing in the moral sphere of human relations. In the end, one can be assured that European Jews were grateful for Allied intervention near the end of World War II; for this reason, the truth of the ancient proverbial wisdom remains:

Rescue those who are being led away to death;
Hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
And if you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
Does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person
According to what he has done?38

In the context of genocide and mass human rights violations, this rescue—this “holding back from slaughter”—will require coercive force and restraint, and such is the fruit of charity or neighbor-love—what one Christian ethicist called a “preferential ethics of protection.”39 Christian love, then, will always be in search of a responsible social policy.40 That is to say, it will always seek to incarnate itself; it will always take on flesh, in this way lending itself toward social policy. It will do so, however, without becoming a “Christian politics” or “Christian economics” per se, since idolatry by means of democ­racy or contractual agreement can become entrenched and institutionalized.

The Historical Fallacy

[p.161>] Finally, a major flaw in pacifist thinking needs revisiting. It is the re­markably widespread assumption—so widespread, in fact, that even many nonpacifists have imbibed it—that the early Church, until the fourth century, was uniformly pacifist. For example, in his influential Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace, the Quaker historian Roland Bainton asserted that “no Christian author to our knowledge approved of Christian participation in battle.”41 Virtually all pacifist writers make the same assertion, with not a few following John Howard Yoder’s line of reasoning, namely, that the early Christians rejected anything remotely related to the Empire and Caesar as “inherently evil,” including the military.

But this viewpoint is historically inaccurate and cannot hold up to scru­tiny. Far from there being a univocal witness against soldiering and military service, the picture is one of ambiguity. There is little evidence of a unified and unambiguous “Christian” view of war and military service, or that most Christians opposed war or military service per se.42 And for the earliest gen­erations of believers—until the mid-to-late second century—military service was a nonissue, since as a sociological group, Christians were insignificant, not wanted, and lacking the requisite Roman citizenship to join the Roman legions. This, however, would begin to change for purely demographic rea­sons in the second century.

More recent scholarship has tended to confirm that the early church was indeed not univocally pacifist, and that diversity rather than uniformity—as we might expect—characterized Christian attitudes toward war, soldiering, and military service. A bit of recent history at this point is in order. Up until roughly 1980, it was broadly assumed that the early Christians were “paci‑ [p.162>] fist,” based on a supposed aversion to bloodshed. By the late second century it was acknowledged that some Christians were serving in the military-a number that grew during the third century. It was further assumed that by the end of the fourth century a “Christian accommodation” to political changes was being mirrored-what some have called a “Constantinian fall” from the Church’s pristine purity (so Roland Bainton, John Cadoux, Jean Michel Hornus, John Howard Yoder, among others). Historical research done by people such as John Helgeland, James Turner Johnson, and Louis J. Swift in the late 1970s and early 1980s questioned the more or less uncritical acceptance of the pacifist interpretation of the early fathers.

Summarizing aspects of the emergent new consensus in his 1982 essay “Pacifism and Military Service in the Early Church,” K. W. Ruyter notes that while the very early fathers tended to borrow the eschatological imagery of the Old Testament prophets as they envisioned future peace, successive generations wrestled more and more with how to relate Christian faith to the present social order. In the end, Ruyter too rejects the portrait of a “purely pacifist” early Church: “On the basis of the sources, the picture seems to be more complex and pluriform.”43 Writing on the state of the question in 1989, David G. Hunter sought to add perspective to the emergence of “new consensus.” Hunter observed that “the former ‘pacifist consensus’ has been definitively revised in the light of contemporary discussion.”44 Among the findings of the “new consensus,” according to Hunter, were the following: (a) opponents of military service objected on the basis of a variety of factors, not merely bloodshed; (b) evidence from the late second century onward indicated divergence of opinion among Christians; (c) even among some pre-Constantinian fathers we see evidence of concern for a “just” case in going to war. Elsewhere Hunter has argued that “the pluralism of Christian witness today has a ground in the pluralism of the early church. From the very time when military service became a real option for Christians, there is evidence that Christians responded to it in a variety of ways. . . . The witness of the first three centuries does not provide the Christian today with a univo­cal mandate for pacifism.”45

What is striking about patristic writings of the early centuries is how infrequently the subject of Christians, war, and soldiering occurs. This is significant, for if it were the source of controversy, we would expect heated exchanges, conciliar declarations, and excommunications. Alas, these never materialize. Elsewhere I have weighed the patristic evidence and, with re‑ [p.163>] cent scholarship, have concluded that Helgeland, Johnson, Swift, Hunter, and Ruyter—and more recently, John Shean and Despina Iosif—are correct. There is indeed a scholarly consensus—and an ecumenical one at that—but it is not the consensus that pacifists would wish to salvage.46

Scholarly and theological integrity demand an accurate accounting of the complexity and diversity of pre-Constantinian Christian attitudes toward the military. It is surely worth noting that dissenting attitudes toward Chris­tian enlistment in the Roman army during this period are individual and not collective or ecclesial. No controversy on the matter involving the entire Church or even between churches erupted. And we are justified in asking whether those individuals who did dissent were in fact representative of the Church at large.47….


Footnotes


14. Elshtain, Women and War, rev. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 123, 132.

15. See David D. Corey and J. Daryl Charles, The Just War Tradition: An Introduction (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2012), chap. 11 (“Why Have Our Churches Lost the Tradition? Two Temptations: Christian Realism, Christian Pacifism”), and J. Daryl Charles, Between Paci­fism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 88­106, esp. 88-93. Yoder is well known inter alia for suggesting the diversities of pacifism—see, e.g., his Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacm, rev. ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992), wherein he posits nearly twenty different pacifist varieties (flavors?). If it is consistent ideologically, however, pacifism rejects the possibility that coercive force can ever be used for just purposes.

16. In some respects this thoroughness—as well as moral seriousness—is absent from the work of Stanley Hauerwas, whose debt to Yoder is considerable. In addition to Yoder, another influential contemporary pacifist voice has been New Testament scholar Richard Hays, whose book The Moral Vision of the New Testament (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996) received effusive praise from the moment that it appeared in 1996. In his important 2013 volume In Defence of War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), British theologian Nigel Biggar has subjected Hays’s work—and specifically chap. 14 (“Violence in Defense of Justice”) of The Moral Vision—to withering (and much needed) criticism.

17. The “just war” concept should not be viewed as a theoretical justification for going to war but rather as an ethic of restraint by which we severely qualify whether or not to enter conflict and how to limit and guide the conduct of such undertakings. It affirms not what may be done but what should be done.

18. The command to love one’s enemies is already present in the Old Testament (Exod. 23:4-5 and Prov. 25:21). Affirmed by Paul (Rom. 12:20), it is not at odds with Israel’s civic laws that include punishments. Carrying out punishments under the Mosaic Law, according to the lex talionis, is not opposed to loving one’s personal enemies or the “law of Christ.”

19. What is being set aside are rabbinic re-interpretations of the law (i.e., the so-called “fence around the law”) that have distorted its meaning—hence, the repeated use by Jesus of the rabbinic kelal (“You have heard it said but 1 tell you . . .”) in the six case-illustrations used by our Lord (Matt. 5:21-48). See in this regard to J. Daryl Charles, “‘Do Not Suppose That I Have Come’: The Ethic of the Sermon on the Mount Reconsidered,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 46, no. 3 (2004): 47-70.

20. The radical ethical discontinuity presumed by religious pacifists has the effect of creat­ing two Gods, not entirely unlike the heretic Marcion, for whom the ethical codes of the Old and New Testaments were discontinuous.

21. Those who object to God’s “warrior” character in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 18:34; 24:8; Jer. 20:11; Zeph. 3:17) typically argue that the New Testament reveals a God of love and peace, replacing a more “primitive” view of the Almighty. From the standpoint of orthodox Christian theism, such a view—”God the Warrior” vs. “God the Pacifist”—is untenable. Inter alia it ignores the mercy and Iovingkindness of God as pronounced in the Old Testament (e.g., Exod. 20:6; 34:6; Num. 14:18; Ps. 136; Isa. 55:3; Hos. 2:19; Mic. 7:18). Here I am presupposing the unity of the two Testaments as well as the unchanging nature of the divine character.

22. C. S. Lewis, “On Ethics,” in Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), 46.

23. Ibid., 53.

24. In this vein, the difference between retribution and revenge or retaliation needs under­scoring. At its base moral outrage expressed through retributive justice is first and foremost anchored in moral principle, not mere emotional outrage or hatred. Retribution properly un­derstood is concerned with the welfare of the population as well as those doing wrong. Any parent intuits the truth of this reality. Indeed, not to act against the will of an evildoer is to hurt both the community and the offender himself. Whereas revenge strikes out at real or perceived injury, retribution speaks to an objective wrong. Whereas revenge is wild, insatiable, and not subject to limitations, retribution has both upper and lower limits, acknowledging the moral repugnance both of draconian punishment for petty offenses and of light punishment for heinous crimes. Vengeance, by its nature, has a thirst for injury and delights in bringing further evil upon the other party. The avenger will not only kill but torture, rape, plunder, and burn what is left, deriving satisfaction from his victim’s direct or indirect suffering. In addition, because of its retaliatory mode, revenge will target both the offending party and those perceived to be akin. Retribution, by contrast, is targeted yet impersonal and impartial, not subject to personal bias. For this reason, Lady Justice is depicted as blindfolded. The difference between revenge and retribution is the difference between Rom. 12 and Rom. 13.

25. It is therefore wrong to view these four images as commands, which would render them moral absolutes.

26. Notice that Jesus did not say, “Turn the other cheek of the third party being accosted.” Theologian Donald Bloesch has rightly observed that pacifism mistakenly substitutes the prin­ciple of nonviolence for divine commandment (Freedom for Obedience: Evangelical Ethics for Contemporary Times (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 293-4).

27. It is not the prerogative of the state to forgive evil. South African Justice Richard Gold­stone, who served as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, had this to say in a speech at the United States Holocaust Museum re­garding evil from the recent past: “where there have been egregious human rights violations that have been unaccounted for, were there has been no justice, where the victims have not received any acknowledgement, where they have been forgotten, where there’s been a national amnesia, the effect is a cancer in the society.” See “War Crimes: When Amnesia Causes Cancer,” The Washington Post, February 2, 1997, C4. Goldstone’s comments serve to remind us that bad theology is a cruel taskmaster and makes for horrendous social policy.

28. For this reason, Niebuhr lampoons Protestant naiveté on the eve of World War II with sarcastic lament, suggesting that if only Christians had demonstrated more “nonviolent love” and “if Britain had only been fortunate enough to have produced 30 percent instead of two percent conscientious objectors to military service, [then] Hitler’s heart would have been soft­ened and he would not have dared attack Poland” (Christianity and Power Politics (New York: Scribner’s, 1940), 6).

29. John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1960), 288.

30. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae IIaIIae q.29.

31. This moral logic applies not only to the military or to police work and law enforce­ment; it applies to the myriad of vocations associated with civil and public service, including government work (of any type), holding public office, policy analysis, data collection, econom­ics, security, lawyering, as well as any public service dedicated to promoting or protecting the common good.

32. Augustine, epistle 138 (“To Marcellinus”). We may properly define charity as desiring the best—the highest—for the other.

33. Elsewhere I have attempted to address the tragic divorce of justice and charity in general ethical terms in “Toward Restoring a Good Marriage: Reflections on the Contemporary Divorce of Love and Justice and Its Cultural Implications,” Journal of Church and State 55 (2013): 367-83. Insofar as the unity of charity and justice underpins the just war tradition classically understood, see J. Daryl Charles, “Justice, Neighbor-Love and the Just-War Tradition,” Cultural Encounters 1 (2004): 47-67; “Between Pacifism and Crusade: Justice and Neighbor-Love in the Just-War Tradition,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 8, no. 4 (2005): 86-123; and more recently, “The Moral Underpinnings of Just Retribution: Justice and Charity in Sym­biosis,” Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy (forthcoming).

34. These geopolitical tragedies illustrate why “peace” must be qualified and justly ordered. Correlatively, they expose the baseline fallacy of ideological pacifism, which proceeds from a presumption against coercive force and war rather than a presumption against evil and injustice. Hereon see J. Daryl Charles, “Presumption against War or Presumption against Injustice? The Just War Tradition Reconsidered,” Journal of Church and State 47 (2005): 335-69.

35. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, eds., The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, 4 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace Janovich, 1968), 4:469; see as well George Orwell, “Reflections on Gandhi,” Partisan Review 16 (1949): 85-92. Gandhi’s method indeed would appear powerless and inefficacious against tyranny as we’ve known it in the twentieth century. Consider, for example, estimates of the numbers of death in the twentieth century due to conventional war—ca. 30 million—and to political tyranny and totalitarianism—between 100 and 200 million. The combined estimate given by French historian Stephane Courtois, in the introduction of The Black Book of Communism, trans. J. Murphy and M. Kramer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), is approximately 100 million. The estimate of military historian Robert Conquest, in Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), is in the 170 million range. Truly, the stench of death is stunning.

36. Gandhi’s thinking would appear to be rooted in the principle of satyagraha, by which it is presumed that the sight of suffering would move an aggressor to desist from his violence.

37. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, 4th ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 329-30. In the end, a very troubling question for C. S. Lewis was why pacifists were tolerated only in liberal societies. This seemed to suggest a moral incongruity, since for pacifism to be a universal moral obligation it must be prescribed for all or for none. “This, then, is why I am not a Pacifist,” concluded C. S. Lewis. “If I tried to become one, I should find a very doubtful factual basis, an obscure train of reasoning, a weight of author­ity both human and Divine against me, and strong grounds for suspecting that my [personal] wishes had directed my decision” (“Why I Am Not a Pacifist,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 53).

38. Prov. 24:11-12.

39. Paul Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993), 166­-70.

40. Ibid., 326-66 (chap. 9, “Christian Love in Search of a Social Policy”).

41. Roland Bainton, Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1960), 66.

42. Tertullian and Origen are typically cited as evidence of “normative pacifism” in the early church. But the earlier Tertullian, in Apology, speaks of the necessity of war in the service of protecting geographical borders, while observing that Christians help the emperor and the army through prayer. The later Tertullian, as represented in his two works On Idolatry and On the Military Crown, is worried about idolatry—idolatry in wider culture and idolatry in certain military practices and ceremonies. For his part, Origen writes in Contra Celsum—an apologetic work intended to argue that Christians were not unpatriotic—that Christians indeed served society by praying for the emperor and the soldiers to triumph in battle (8.73). Origen’s position was not one of pure pacifism, for although he was opposed to believers serving in the military, he did not oppose war. Clement of Alexandria, one of the earliest fathers to discuss war (late-second and early-third century), mirrors a positive attitude toward soldiering, anchoring this perspective in Jesus’s and John the Baptist’s dealings with soldiers. In his Exhortation to the Greeks, Clement observes that farmers, sailors and soldiers all are able to mature in their relationship with God (10.100.2). In the end, patristic evidence indicates that Tertullian, in his radical sectarianism, and Origen, in his selective pacifism, were not representative of the first four centuries. Moreover, it is well possible that the attitudes of both were due to an increasing number of Christians entering the military.

43. K. W. Ruyter, “Pacifism and Military Service in the Early Church,” Cross Currents 32 (1982): 54-70.

44. David G. Hunter, “A Decade of Research on Early Christians and Military Service,” Religious Studies Review 18, no. 2 (1989): 93 (emphasis added).

45. David G. Hunter, “The Christian Church and the Roman Army in the First Three Cen­turies,” in The Church’s Peace Witness, ed. Martin E. Miller and Barbara N. Gingerich (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 180.

46. See J. Daryl Charles, “Patriots, Pacifists, or Both? Second Thoughts on Pre-Constantinian Early Christian Attitudes toward Soldiering and War,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 13, no. 2 (2010): 17-55; “Early Christian Attitudes toward Soldiering and War,” in The Just War Tradition, 23-51 (chap. 2); John Helgeland, “Christians and the Roman Army, A.D. 173-337,” Church History 43 (1974): 149-63, 200; “Christians and the Roman Army from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine,” Aufstieg and Niedergang der römischen Welt 2.23.1 (1979): 724-834; cf. as John Helgeland, Robert J. Daly, and J. Patout Burns, Christians in the Military: The Early Experience (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985); James Turner Johnson, The Quest for Peace: Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 3-66; Louis J. Swift, The Early Fathers on War and Military Service (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983); Hunter, “A Decade of Research on Early Christians and Mili­tary Service,” and “The Christian Church and the Roman Army in the First Three Centuries”; Ruyter, “Pacifism and Military Service in the Early Church”; John F. Shean, Soldiering for God: Christianity and the Roman Army (Leiden: Brill, 2010); and Despina Iosif, Early Christian At­titudes to War, Violence and Military Service (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2013).

That the ethical ramifications of contemporary accounts of the early centuries are indeed intended to be prescriptive and not merely descriptive should give us pause. Insofar as pacifism, by virtue of its refusal to participate in politics, cannot treat either criminal justice or interna­tional affairs seriously qua politics, it misconstrues—and severely limits—not only the church’s wider cultural mandate but also the manifold expressions of charity toward the oppressed that are affirmed by mainstream Christian thinking. By following pacifists’ prescription, we in truth make everyone unsafe.

47. More recently I have responded to pacifist claims regarding patristic evidence made by Ronald J. Sider in his essay “The Early Church on War and Killing,” Books & Culture, January-February 2016. In his review of recent scholarship that challenges the pacifist consen­sus and seems to confirm an emergent “new consensus,” Sider rather remarkably dismisses this historical (and countervailing) data as “speculation.” While Sider is surely free to disagree, he is not free to dismiss a different interpretation of historical data as mere “speculation.” See J. Daryl Charles, “‘The Early Church on War and Killing’ (Books & Culture, January-February 2016: A Response,” Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy, Janu­ary 29, 2016,

Biased Professors (@ C.O.C.)

The students would tell Professor Laura Freberg after finding out she was a Republican that they could tell. It was because of what she WAS NOT SAYING.

To wit:

My oldest son’s English professor at C.O.C. talked positively about Bernie Sanders as well as socialism, how Republicans were bigoted, talked approvingly of #BlackLivesMatter, about how religion causes most wars, talked about global warming, the [fictitious] plastic trash island, on-and-on-and-on. He barely taught English.

During the comments about Christianity being behind many of histories wars, my son spoke up and mentioned that only 7% of the world’s wars were religious, and almost a third of them were done in the name of Muhammad (HJBUH). The professor countered… since they have WI-FI on campus, my son pulled up my post on it to clarify the issue (http://tinyurl.com/hh2brpw).

Mind you, in the post I quote from an atheist professor, an encyclopedia written by 9-history professors, and another book by a religious author specifically about the Thirty Years War (he is Professor of Theology at DePaul University; his book was published by Oxford University Press).

The next class was an entire class on why you cannot trust books.

CRAZY!

If I were there, I would note that I agree with him in regards to history books written without footnotes, like Howard Zinn’s book about American history (which I would guess is a book the “professor” emphatically trusts).

My only admonition to the professors like my son’s is that if you put this passion into the material and class goals, you would be an excellent teacher of minds in that subject.

“Causes of Wars,” Concepts (ISIS Compared to Christianity)

Before starting this post one must note that this post is connected to other “war” positions taken against Christians by typically — atheists:

Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much [of a] role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34 (Walter is an atheist, BTW)

(As usual, if you wish you can enlarge the above by clicking the article.)

This is gonna be mainly raw text from two sources about the Thirty Years’ War. The first is a run-down of stats of the war from The Encyclopedia of WarEncyclopedia of wars

The authors are nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years… (source)…

…The second will be from the great resource The Myth of Religious Violence, and will answer two charges against the War. (Take note as well that I dealt with an aspect of this in a previous post/article by John, HERE.)

All this will be preceded by a summary of sorts from the following three sources:

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005);
  • The General History of the Late War (Volume 3); Containing It’s Rise, Progress, and Event, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (No Publisher [see here], date of publication was from about 1765-1766), 110;
  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Summary

A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be ‘most’ really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare.

Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. And the Thirty Years’ War cannot be viewed as “religious” in that you should find certain aspects if this were the case. For instance, professor Cavanaugh offers the following short critique after a long list of historical instances [included below] building-up-to and during the Thirty Years’ War.

[….]

The other encyclopedia in this excerpt, edited by Gordon Martel, is a bit too expensive for me to add to my home library. I will have to wait for a reasonably priced used copy of this multi-volume set:

Not only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second [6-volume] scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.

(Stand to Reason)

Dr. Cavanaugh sets up the premise like John Van Huizum did, but then responds. (Again, the longer response follows the summary information):

A. Combatants opposed each other based on religious difference. The killing in the wars that are called religious took place between combatants who held to different religious doctrines and practices. We would expect to find, there­fore, in the wars of religion that Catholics killed Protestants and that Catholics did not kill fellow Catholics. We would likewise expect to find that Protestants killed Catholics, but we would not necessarily expect that Protestants did not kill each other without being more specific in differentiating those who are commonly lumped together as “Protestants.” Certainly, we would expect that Lutherans did not kill other Lutherans, Calvinists did not kill other Calvinists, and so on. But given that Lutherans had significant theological differences with Calvinists, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists—and those groups had great doctrinal differences among themselves—we should expect violence among different types of Protestants as well. We should expect, in Kathleen Sullivan’s phrase, a “war of all sects against all.”

[….]

Collaboration between Protestants and Catholics of the lower classes was also widespread in the French wars of religion, mainly in an effort to resist abuse by the nobility and the Crown. In Agen in 1562, the Catholic baron Francois de Fumel forbade his Huguenot peasants from conducting services in the Calvinist manner. They revolted and were joined by hundreds of Catholic peasants. Together, they seized Fumel’s château and beheaded him in front of his wife. Holt comments, “The episode shows above all how difficult it is to divide sixteenth-century French men and women into neat communities of Protestants and Catholics along doctrinal or even cultural lines.”

[….]

If the above instances of war making—in which members of the same church fought each other and members of different churches collaborated—undermine the standard narrative of the wars of religion, the absence of war between Lutherans and Calvinists also undermines the standard tale. If theo­logical difference tends toward a war of all sects against all, we should expect to find Lutheran-Calvinist wars, but in fact we find none. Although there were internal tensions in some principalities between Lutheran princes and Calvinist nobility or Calvinist princes and Lutheran nobility, no Lutheran prince ever went to war against a Calvinist prince. The absence of such wars cannot be attributed to the similarity of Lutheranism and Calvinism. There were sufficient theological differences to sustain a permanent divide between the two branches of the Reformation. Such differences were serious enough to produce sporadic attempts by the civil authorities to enforce doctrinal unifor­mity. In the decades following Phillip Melanchthon’s death in 1560, there was an effort to root out “Crypto-Calvinists” from the ranks of Lutheranism. The rector of the University of Wittenberg, Caspar Peucer, was jailed for Crypto-Calvinism from 1574 to 1586; Nikolaus Krell was executed for Crypto-Calvinism in Dresden in 1601. Many Crypto-Calvinists among the Lutherans were forced to relocate to regions friendlier to Calvinism, such as Hesse-Kasse1. However, the fact that Lutheran-Calvinist tensions played no part in the wars of religion indicates at minimum that significant theological differences in the public realm did not necessarily produce war in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. There simply was no war of all sects against all….

B. The primary cause of the wars was religion, as opposed to merely political, economic, or social causes. Protestants and Catholics not only killed each other, but they did so for religious—not political, economic, or social—reasons.

[….]

There are two immediate reasons that this would not be an adequate response. First, the above list contains more than just a few isolated instances. In the case of the Thirty Years’ War, for example, the entire latter half of the war was primarily a struggle between the two great Catholic powers of Europe: France, on the one hand, and the two branches of the Habsburgs, on the other. Second, the above list contains more than just exceptions; if the wars in question are indeed wars of religion, then the instances above are inexplicable exceptions, unless other factors are given priority over religion. Why, in a war over religion, would those who share the same religious beliefs kill each other? Why, in a war over religion, would those on opposite sides of the religious divide collaborate? If the answer is that people prioritized other concerns over their religious views, then it does not make sense to call them wars of religion.

  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 141-142, 146, 150-152.

Another thought. Assuming John’s position that the Thirty Years’ War was religious… it was religion fighting for more freedom. So the analogy John is making falls apart. ISIS is not fighting for freedom… they are fighting to enslave… like their predecessors:

(See more)

Okay, that short answer above now gets much more technical — and is geared toward the history buff or technical/in-depth response using history. I will include Dr. Cavanaugh’s 4-part list of issues in regards to the Thirty Years’ War, BUT ONLY his first two responses. His book is so good I recommend the person who has a stomach for history buy it. Here is the raw facts from The Encyclopedia of War:

Thirty-Years’-War 700

Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Holy Roman Emperor, Spain, Bavaria and other Catholic German states, Saxony and other Protestant German states (after 1635), the Papacy and various Italian states vs. numerous Protestant states and groups in the Empire, Saxony and other Protestant German states (until 1635), Transylvania, the Dutch Republic, Denmark (1625-1629), Sweden (from 1630), and France (from 1636)

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Germany

DECLARATION: None

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Religious and political freedom for the Protestants of the Empire, and especially of the Hapsburg lands (the emperor and the states of the empire); the atomization of Germany, territorial gains in north Germany, and a war indemnity (Sweden); territorial gains in Alsace-Lorraine and reduction of assistance between the Austrian and Spanish Hapsburgs (France); security for the “Protestant cause” in Germany (Denmark, the Dutch)

OUTCOME: The Empire became fragmented, with the emperor losing most of his political authority within Germany but consolidating his hold over his own territories; religion ceased to be a major precipitant of political conflict; Germany, although devastated by 30 years of conflict, enjoyed internal peace for almost a century; the foreign powers all gained their objectives, although the cost of doing so provoked serious political strains in most of them; Sweden briefly became a great power.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: The Imperial army commanded by Wallenstein in North Germany in 1628-29 probably approached 200,000 men; Gustavus Adolphus probably directed the operations of 120,000 men in 1631-32; France maintained some 130,000 men, at least on paper, in 1635-36. Total number of men in battle, however, rarely exceeded 20,000 per side and normally numbered 10,000 or less—roughly half of them cavalry.

CASUALTIES: Perhaps 500,000 soldiers took part in the war, of whom perhaps two-thirds died in service; in addition civilian losses amounted to perhaps 4 million-20 percent of the total population of the Empire.

TREATIES: Hague Alliance (December 9, 1625); Peace of Lubeck (July 7, 1629); Truce of Altmark (September 26, 1629); Heilbronn League (April 23, 1633); Peace of Prague (May 30, 1635); Treaty of Hamburg (March 15, 1641); Peace of Westphalia (October 24, 1648).

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, vol III (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005), cf, Thirty Years’ War, 1140-1141.

Okay, now for the in-depth items to deal with… remember, only “A” and “B” are responded to. Take note as well that the death toll of secular — non-religious — governments in the 20th Century alone are included (the graphic is linked) at the end.


Components of the Myth

In this section, I will lay out the basic components of the narrative of the wars of religion as used by the figures above. Subsequent sections of this chapter will examine the historical record to determine the plausibility of each component of the narrative. For the overall narrative to be true, each of the following components must be true:

  1. Combatants opposed each other based on religious difference. The killing in the wars that are called religious took place between combatants who held to different religious doctrines and practices. We would expect to find, there­fore, in the wars of religion that Catholics killed Protestants and that Catholics did not kill fellow Catholics. We would likewise expect to find that Protestants killed Catholics, but we would not necessarily expect that Protestants did not kill each other without being more specific in differentiating those who are commonly lumped together as “Protestants.” Certainly, we would expect that Lutherans did not kill other Lutherans, Calvinists did not kill other Calvinists, and so on. But given that Lutherans had significant theological differences with Calvinists, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists—and those groups had great doctrinal differences among themselves—we should expect violence among different types of Protestants as well. We should expect, in Kathleen Sullivan’s phrase, a “war of all sects against all.”
  2. The primary cause of the wars was religion, as opposed to merely political, economic, or social causes. Protestants and Catholics not only killed each other, but they did so for religious—not political, economic, or social—reasons.
  3. Religious causes must be at least analytically separable from political, eco­nomic, and social causes at the time of the wars. Although the historical reality is inevitably complex, and people’s motives are often mixed, we must be able, at least in theory, to separate religious causes from political, economic, and social causes.
  4. The rise of the modern state was not a cause of the wars, but rather provided a solution to the wars. The transfer of power from the church to the state was necessary to tame the disruptive influence of religion. As we have seen, there are two versions of this narrative. In one, the liberal state tames religion by separating church and state and removing religion from the public realm. In the other, the absolutist state enforces political unity by absorbing the church. For contemporary liberal political theorists of the latter type, absolutism is a necessary but temporary stage on the way to liberalism.

We will now see how each of these components stands up to recorded his­tory. This is important, given that the tellings of the narrative we examined above tend not to look very closely at history. Toulmin’s, Skinner’s, and Pocock’s books contain scattered references in the notes to contemporary histories of the religious wars. None of the other figures cites, either in the main text or the footnotes, any work by any historian of the European wars of religion.

The Historical Record

(A) Combatants Opposed Each Other Based on Religious Difference

The myth of the wars of religion is an uncomplicated tale of violence between religious groups who held to different theological doctrines. Historical records of these wars, however, show many examples of members of the same church killing each other and members of different churches collaborating:

  • If there truly were a war of all sects against all, one would expect that war would have broken out soon after Europe split into Catholic and Protestant factions. However, between the time that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517 and the outbreak of the first commonly cited religious war—the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-1547—almost thirty years would pass. The Catholic prosecutor of the Schmalkaldic War, Holy Roman emperor Charles V, spent much of the decade following Luther’s excommu­nication in 1520 at war not against Lutherans, but against the pope. As Richard Dunn points out, “Charles V’s soldiers sacked Rome, not Wittenberg, in 1527, and when the papacy belatedly sponsored a reform program, both the Habsburgs and the Valois refused to endorse much of it, rejecting especially those Trentine decrees which encroached on their sovereign authority.”93 The wars of the 1520s were part of the ongoing struggle between the pope and the emperor for control over Italy and over the church in German territories.94
  • The early decades of the Reformation saw Catholic France in frequent wars against the Catholic emperor. The wars began in 1521, 1527, 1536, 1542, and 1552; most lasted two to three years.95 Charles V was at war twenty-three of the forty-one years of his reign, sixteen of them against France.96 Although most of these wars predate what are commonly called the wars of religion, they come in the wake of the Reformation and underscore the fact that the first decades of religious difference in Europe did not produce war between sects. War continued to be based on other factors.
  • In a similar vein, starting in 1525, Catholic France made frequent alli­ances with the Muslim Turks against Catholic emperor Charles V.97 Until the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-1547, the Protestant princes of the Holy Roman Empire generally supported the Catholic emperor in his wars against France. In 1544, Charles granted wide control to the Protestant princes over the churches in their realms in exchange for military support against France.98
  • The first religious war of Charles V against the Schmalkaldic League found a number of important Protestant princes on Charles’s side, including Duke Moritz of Saxony, the Margrave Albrecht-Alcibiades of Brandenburg,99 and the Margrave Hans of Kiistrin.100 The Protestant Philip of Hesse had already signed a treaty to support Charles against the Schmalkaldic League, but he reneged in 1546.101 Wim Blockmans remarks, “The fact that a number of Protestant princes joined Charles’s army shows that the entire operation was based on sheer opportunism.”102
  • Catholic Bavaria refused to fight for the Habsburg emperor in the Schmalkaldic War, though Bavaria did provide some material assis-tance.103Already in 1531, Bavaria had allied with many Lutheran princes in opposing Ferdinand’s election as king of the Romans, and in 1533 Bavaria had joined Philip of Hesse in restoring Wurttemburg to the Protestant duke Ulrich.104
  • The popes were equally unreliable. In January 1547, Pope Paul III abruptly withdrew his forces from Germany, fearing that Charles’s military successes would make him too strong.105 As Blockmans com­ments, “[The pope found a few apostates in northern Germany less awful than a supreme emperor.”106 In 1556-1557, Pope Paul IV went to war against another Habsburg monarch, the devoutly Catholic Philip II of Spain.107
  • In alliance with Lutheran princes, the Catholic king Henry II of France attacked the emperor’s forces in 1552.108 The Catholic princes of the empire stood by, neutral, while Charles went down to defeat. As Richard Dunn observes, “The German princes, Catholic and Lutheran, had in effect ganged up against the Habsburgs.”109 As a result, the emperor had to accept the Peace of Augsburg, which granted the princes the right to determine the ecclesial affiliation of their subjects. Dunn notes that the German peasantry and urban working class “were inclined to follow orders inertly on the religious issue, and switch from Lutheran to Catholic, or vice versa, as their masters required.”110 Most of Charles’s soldiers were mercenaries; these included many Protestants. Some of Charles’s favorite troops were the High German Landsknechte, who commanded a relatively high wage but were good fighters, despite the prevalence of Lutheranism among them.111 The French wars of religion, generally dated 1562-1598, are usually assumed to have pitted the Calvinist Huguenot minority against the Catholic majority. The reality is more complex. In 1573, the gover­nor of Narbonne, Baron Raymond de Fourquevaux, reported to King Charles IX that the common people believed that the wars were rooted in a conspiracy of Protestant and Catholic nobles directed against the commoners.112 The Huguenot and Catholic nobles “openly help each other; the one group holds the lamb while the other cuts its throat.”113 Other contemporary accounts confirm that this view was widespread.114; Though the existence of such a grand conspiracy is doubtful, there were many examples of nobility changing church affiliation at whim115 and many examples of collaboration between Protestant and Catholic nobles. Instances of Protestant-Catholic collaboration among the nobility were generally aimed at asserting the ancient rights of the nobility over against the centralizing efforts of the monarchy. In 1573, the Catholic Henri de Turenne, duke of Bouillon, led the Huguenot forces in upper Guyenne and Perigord.116
  • In 1574, the Catholic royal governor of Languedoc, Henri de Mont­morency, Sieur de Damville, who had previously fought against the Protestants, joined forces with the Huguenot nobility to support a pro­posed antimonarchical constitution.117 He led the anti-Crown military forces in the west and south against the forces of Jacques de Crussol, duke of Uzes, a former Huguenot destroyer of Catholic churches.118 In 1575, the Catholic duke of Alencon, King Henry III’s brother, joined the Huguenots in open rebellion against the monarchy’s oppres­sive taxation.119 In 1578, as duke of Anjou, he sought the hand of the staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I of England in marriage, in an attempt to secure an English-French alliance versus Spain.120
  • A number of Protestants joined the ultra-Catholic duke of Guise’s war of 1579-1580) against the Crown. J. H. M. Salmon comments, “So strong was the disaffection of the nobility, and so little was religion a determining factor in their alignment, that a number of Huguenot seigneurs in the eastern provinces showed a readiness to follow Guise’s banners.”121
  • In 1583, the Protestant Jan Casimir of the Palatinate joined forces with the Catholic duke of Lorraine against Henry III.122
  • Catholic nobles Conti and Soissons served the Protestant Conde in the 1587 campaigns. 123
  • The Crown was not above making alliances with the Huguenots when it served its purposes. In 1571, Charles IX allied with the Huguenots for an anti-Habsburg campaign in the Low Countries.124
  • Henry III joined forces with the Protestant Henry of Navarre in 1589.125 The Catholic kings also made alliances with Protestants beyond France’s borders. In 158o, Anjou offered the French Crown’s support to Dutch Calvinist rebels against Spanish rule. In return, Anjou would become sovereign of the Netherlands, if the revolt should succeed. He took up his position in the Netherlands in 1582, though his reign lasted only a year.126
  • The fluidity of the nobles’ and the Crown’s ecclesial affiliations is cap­tured by Salmon in the following passage:

If the shift from feudal obligation to clientage had intensified the spirit of self-interest among the nobility of the sword, it was never more evident than in the years immediately before the death of Anjou in 1584. Ambition and expediency among the princes, magnates, and their followers made a mockery of reli­gious ideals. Huguenot and Catholic Politiques had co-operated in Anjou’s service in the Netherlands, just as they had at Navarre’s petty court at Nerac. Montpensier, once a zealous persecutor of heretics, had deserted the Guisard camp to advocate toleration. Damville had changed alliances once more and abandoned his close association with the Valois government to effect a rapprochement with Navarre. For political reasons Navarre himself had resisted a mission undertaken by Epernon to reconvert him to Catholicism. Not only his Huguenot counselors, Duplessis-Mornay and d’Aubigne, urged him to stand firm, but even his Catholic chancellor, Du Ferrier, argued that more would be lost than gained by a new apostasy. More surprising was a covert attempt by Philip II to secure Navarre as his ally, coupled with a proposal that the Bourbon should repudiate Marguerite de Valois to marry the Infanta.127

  • Collaboration between Protestants and Catholics of the lower classes was also widespread in the French wars of religion, mainly in an effort to resist abuse by the nobility and the Crown. In Agen in 1562, the Catholic baron Francois de Fumel forbade his Huguenot peasants from conducting services in the Calvinist manner. They revolted and were joined by hundreds of Catholic peasants. Together, they seized Fumel’s château and beheaded him in front of his wife. Holt comments, “The episode shows above all how difficult it is to divide sixteenth-century French men and women into neat communities of Protestants and Catholics along doctrinal or even cultural lines.”128
  • In 1578, the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants of Pont-en-Roians acted together to expel the Protestant captain Bouvier, who had refused to abide by the terms of the Treaty of Bergerac.129
  • In 1578-1580, the widespread Chaperons-sans-cordon uprising united Catholics and Protestants against the Crown’s attempt to impose a third levy of the taille tax in a single year. In 1579, an army of Catholic and Protestant artisans and peasants based in Romans destroyed the fortress of Chateaudouble and went on to capture Roissas. The combined forces moved throughout the region, occupying seigneurial manors. They were finally trapped and slaughtered by royal troops in March 1580.130 In 1579, Catholic and Protestant parishes actively collaborated in the revolt in the Vivarais against the violence and corruption of the ruling classes. In the spring of 1580, the Protestant Francois Barjac led a combined Catholic and Huguenot force from the Vivarais against the troops stationed at the fortress of Crusso.131
  • In 1586, Catholic and Protestant villages collaborated in an attack on Saint Bertrand de Comminges.132 In 1591, the peasant federation of the Campanelle, based in Comminges, joined Catholics and Protestants together to make war on the nobility.133
  • In the Haut-Biterrois in the 1590s, a league of twenty-four villages of both Protestants and Catholics arose to protest taxes and set up a sys­tem of self-defense and self-government.134
  • In 1593-1594, Protestant and Catholic peasants joined in dozens of uprisings in the southwest of France. Some of these consisted of a few hundred peasants, while others gathered up to 40,000.135 The most famous of these revolts was that of the Croquants, whose articles of association required the ignoring of ecclesial differences.136
  • If Protestants and Catholics often collaborated in the French civil wars of 1562-1598, it is also the case that the Catholics were divided into two main parties, the Catholic League and those called politiques, who often found themselves on opposing sides of the violence. The queen mother, Catherine de Medici, promoted Protestants like Navarre, Conde, and Coligny to positions of importance in order to counter the power of the ultra-Catholic Guises. In May 1588, the Guise-led Catholic League took Paris from the royal troops, and Henry III fled the city. In December of that year, Henry III had the duke and cardinal of Guise killed and made a pact with the Protestant Henry of Navarre to make war on the Catholic League. Henry III was assassinated in August 1589 by a Jacobin monk. With Henry of Navarre as successor to the throne, Catholics split into royalists who supported him and Leaguers who led a full-scale military rebellion against him and his supporters.137 The myth of the religious wars presents the Thirty Years’ War as one widespread unified conflict pitting Europe’s Protestants against its Catholics. There was indeed an attempt in 1609 to expand the Protestant Union created by eight German principalities into a pan-European alliance. However, only the counts of Oettingen and the cities of Strasbourg, Ulm, and Nuremburg responded. The elec­tor of Saxony, King Christian of Denmark, and the Reformed cit­ies of Switzerland—in short, the majority of Protestant princes and regions—refused to participate in the Protestant Union.138 When the Protestant estates of Bohemia rebelled against Emperor Ferdinand II in the opening act of the Thirty Years’ War, they offered the crown of Bohemia to Frederick V of the Palatinate, one of the founders of the Protestant Union. The other members of the Protestant Union refused to support him, however, and the union disbanded two years later.139 The Protestant Union attracted some Catholic support. The now-Catholic Henry IV of France sent troops to support the Protestant Union’s intervention in the succession crisis in Cleves-Julich in 1610, but he demanded as a condition of support that the union sever all con­tact with French Huguenots.140 The Catholic prince Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy made an alliance with the Protestant Union in 1619 because the Austrian Habsburgs had failed to solve the succession crisis in Monferrato in a way favorable to his interests. After the Bohemian Protestants were defeated at the Battle of White Mountain, Carlo Emanuele switched his support to the Habsburgs.141
  • The Lutheran elector of Saxony, John George, helped Emperor Ferdinand II to reconquer Bohemia in exchange for the Habsburg province Lusatia.142 In 1626, the elector of Saxony published a lengthy argument in which he tried to persuade his fellow Protestants to sup­port the Catholic emperor. According to John George, the emperor was fighting a just war against rebels, not a crusade against Protestants; what the emperor did in Bohemia and Austria was covered by the prin­ciple of cuius regio, eius religio. Those who opposed the emperor were guilty of treason. The elector of Saxony even cited Luther’s admonition to obey the powers that be.143 John George would later throw in his lot with the Swedes against the emperor.144
  • Catholic France supported Protestant princes from early in the war. France supported the Protestant Grisons in Switzerland against the Habsburgs in 1623.145 In 1624, the minister for foreign affairs, Charles de la Vieuville, made alliances and promises of aid to the Dutch and to multiple German Protestant princes. He also opened negotiations with England to restore Frederick to the throne of Bohemia.146
  • Cardinal Richelieu replaced Vieuville later in 1624 and demanded English and Dutch help in repressing the Huguenots. When such help was not forthcoming, Richelieu abandoned plans for an alliance with England; the Dutch, however, did send a fleet to aid in the defeat of the Huguenot stronghold La Rochelle in 1628.147
  • While the Calvinist Dutch were helping the French Crown to defeat the Calvinists at La Rochelle, Catholic Spain was supporting the Protestant duke of Rohan in his battle against the French Crown in Languedoc.148 The principal adviser of the Calvinist elector of Brandenburg, George William, was a Catholic, Count Adam of Schwarzenberg.149
  • One of the leading commanders of the Imperial Army under Albrecht von Wallenstein, Hans Georg von Arnim, was a Lutheran. Historian R. Po-Chia Hsia remarks, “To build the largest and most powerful army in Europe, Wallenstein employed military talent regardless of confessional allegiance.”150
  • Wallenstein’s foot soldiers included many Protestants, including, ironically, those fleeing because of the imposition of Catholic rule in their home territories. In April 1633, for example, Wallenstein gained a large number of Protestant recruits from Austria who left because of Emperor Ferdinand’s policy of re-Catholicization there.151
  • Private mercenary armies of flexible allegiance helped to perpetuate the Thirty Years’ War. Soldiers of fortune sold the services of their armies to the highest bidder. Ernst von Mansfield worked first for the Catholic Spanish, then for the Lutheran Frederick V, and subsequently switched sides several more times.152 Protestant Scots and English served as officers in Catholic armies, especially in France. Some, like Captain Sidnam Poyntz, switched sides several times.153 Sir James Turner acknowledged that he “had swallowed, without chewing, in Germanie, a very dangerous maxime, which military men there too much follow, which was, that soe we serve our master honestlie, it is no matter what master we serve.”154
  • Sweden’s king Gustavus Adolphus is sometimes presented as the champion of the Protestant cause upon his entry into the war in 1630. However, Gustavus found it difficult to gain Protestant allies. When Swedish troops landed in Germany, their sole ally in the empire was the city of Stralsund. Over the next few months, the Swedes gained only a few more small principalities as allies.155 The most powerful of the Protestant imperial diets saw the Swedish invasion as a threat. They met in the Convention of Leipzig from February to April 1631 in order to form a third party independent of Swedish and imperial control.156 After the initial Swedish victories in 1631, however, many formerly neutral territories were forced to join the Swedes. With Swedish troops approaching in October 1631, Margrave Christian of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, who had heretofore avoided any military engagement, swore his allegiance to Gustavus and agreed to quarter and subsidize his troops. The common people endured many hardships due to the pres­ence of the Swedish troops. When the Lutheran peasants attempted to drive out the Swedes in November 1632, they were massacred.157 France under Cardinal Richelieu signed a treaty with Sweden in January 1631, in which France agreed to subsidize heavily the Swedish war effort.158 Cardinal Richelieu also made a pact with the Protestant principality of Hesse-Kassel.159 The French began sending troops to battle imperial forces in the winter of 1634-1635, and the latter half of the Thirty Years’ War was largely a battle between Catholic France, on the one hand, and the Catholic Habsburgs, on the other.160
  • In March 1635, the troops of fervently Catholic Spain attacked Trier and kidnapped the Catholic archbishop elector. Catholic France subsequently declared war on Catholic Spain.I61
  • In May 1635, the Protestant principalities of Brandenburg and Saxony reconciled with the emperor in the Peace of Prague. Not only did hostilities between the parties cease, but the armies of the Protestant principalities were absorbed into the imperial armies. Within months, most Lutheran states made peace with the emperor on the same terms and proceeded to direct their energies against the Swedes.162 By 1638, the Scottish Presbyterian Robert Baillie could observe, “For the Swedds, I see not what their eirand is now in Germany, bot to shed Protestant blood.”163
  • The pope, on the other hand, refused to support the Holy Roman emperor and gave his approval to the Swedish-French alliance. Pope Urban VIII’s main interest lay in weakening Habsburg control over the papal states in central Italy.164
  • In 1643, Lutheran Sweden attacked Lutheran Denmark. King Christian IV had long harassed Swedish shipping in the Baltic and given asylum to political enemies of Sweden. When word reached Stockholm that Denmark was negotiating an alliance with the emperor, Sweden decided on a preemptive strike. The conflict lasted two years. Despite the Catholic emperor’s aid, Denmark was defeated and forced to sue for peace.165

It would be difficult to come up with a list similar to the one above for the English Civil War, in part because the major contestants—Puritans and Laudians—were factions of the same Anglican Church. However, Scottish Presbyterians entered the fray on the side of the Puritans, while Irish Catholics supported Scottish Presbyterians as a way of weakening the monarchy.166

If the above instances of war making—in which members of the same church fought each other and members of different churches collaborated—undermine the standard narrative of the wars of religion, the absence of war between Lutherans and Calvinists also undermines the standard tale. If theo­logical difference tends toward a war of all sects against all, we should expect to find Lutheran-Calvinist wars, but in fact we find none. Although there were internal tensions in some principalities between Lutheran princes and Calvinist nobility or Calvinist princes and Lutheran nobility,167 no Lutheran prince ever went to war against a Calvinist prince. The absence of such wars cannot be attributed to the similarity of Lutheranism and Calvinism. There were sufficient theological differences to sustain a permanent divide between the two branches of the Reformation. Such differences were serious enough to produce sporadic attempts by the civil authorities to enforce doctrinal unifor­mity. In the decades following Phillip Melanchthon’s death in 1560, there was an effort to root out “Crypto-Calvinists” from the ranks of Lutheranism. The rector of the University of Wittenberg, Caspar Peucer, was jailed for Crypto-Calvinism from 1574 to 1586; Nikolaus Krell was executed for Crypto-Calvinism in Dresden in 1601. Many Crypto-Calvinists among the Lutherans were forced to relocate to regions friendlier to Calvinism, such as Hesse-Kasse1.168 However, the fact that Lutheran-Calvinist tensions played no part in the wars of religion indicates at minimum that significant theological differences in the public realm did not necessarily produce war in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. There simply was no war of all sects against all.

The long list above is almost certainly incomplete. It is gleaned from a reading of some standard histories of the wars of religion. Undoubtedly, a pro­fessional historian of this period could add more instances of war between members of the same church and collaboration in war among members of different churches. Undoubtedly as well, we could compile an even longer list of acts of war between Catholics and Protestants in the sixteenth and seven­teenth centuries. Nevertheless, we must at least observe at this point that the first component of the myth (A) must be significantly qualified by all of the above instances in which it does not hold. As we will see, once we consider the implications of the above list, problems arise with the other components of the myth as well.

(B) The Primary Cause of the Wars Was Religion, as Opposed to Merely Political, Economic, or Social Causes

May we not simply conclude that the above list contains exceptions to the gen­eral rule of war between different religions in this era, but the standard nar­rative of the wars of religion still holds? That is, may we not claim that the majority of violence was Catholic-Protestant, and so, granting the above excep­tions, the standard narrative is valid?

There are two immediate reasons that this would not be an adequate response. First, the above list contains more than just a few isolated instances. In the case of the Thirty Years’ War, for example, the entire latter half of the war was primarily a struggle between the two great Catholic powers of Europe: France, on the one hand, and the two branches of the Habsburgs, on the other. Second, the above list contains more than just exceptions; if the wars in question are indeed wars of religion, then the instances above are inexpli­cable exceptions, unless other factors are given priority over religion. Why, in a war over religion, would those who share the same religious beliefs kill each other? Why, in a war over religion, would those on opposite sides of the reli­gious divide collaborate? If the answer is that people prioritized other concerns over their religious views, then it does not make sense to call them wars of religion.

Imagine I am writing a history of World War I. I am telling the standard story of the war as a struggle between two sets of nations, fueled by com­plex national aspirations, when I uncover a startling fact: the English coun­ties of Somerset, Kent, Durham, Shropshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cumbria, and Cornwall entered World War I on the side of the Kaiser. Leaders in each of these counties declared their allegiance to the German cause, and thousands of troops were sent by ship to Hamburg to join the German forces fighting on the Western Front. I could respond to this discovery by noting these odd exceptions, but pointing out that the majority of English counties fought for the Allied powers, so the basic plotline of the war is unaltered. If I were a good historian, however, I would most likely drop everything and try to find a nar­rative that would take these cases into account. Perhaps nationalism was not the only force driving this war. What motivated the leaders of these counties? Did the troops from these counties go out of conviction or desperation? Were they volunteers, conscripts, or mercenaries? What grievances did these coun­ties have against London that made them unwilling to fight for the king? What other factors besides nationalism were at work in this war?

In the actual case of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars, histo­rians generally deal with the facts from the list above by acknowledging that other factors besides religion were at work in the wars of religion—political, economic, and social factors. The question then becomes one of the relative importance of the various factors. Are political, economic, and social factors important enough that we are no longer justified in calling these wars “of religion”? The above list consists of acts of war in which religion as the most important motivating factor must necessarily be ruled out. But once religion is ruled out as a significant factor from these events, the remainder of the acts of war—those between Protestants and Catholics—become suspect as well. Were other factors besides religion the principal motivators in those cases too? If Catholics killed Catholics for political and economic reasons, did Catholics also kill Protestants for political and economic reasons?

Historians take different positions on this question. Opinions range from those who think that religion was an important factor among other significant factors to those who think that religion was not important, except as a cover for underlying political, economic, and social causes. Since the Enlightenment, these wars have been labeled wars “of religion.” Since the wars occurred, however, there have been those who have doubted whether in fact they were actually religious wars.169 Michel de Montaigne in the sixteenth century remarked that, “if anyone should sift out of the army, even the average loyalist army, those who march in it from the pure zeal of affection for religion …he could not make up one complete company of men-at-arms out of them.”170

This divide is apparent if we look at twentieth-century historiography of the French wars. For much of the century, historians downplayed the role of religion in favor of supposedly more fundamental political, economic, and social causes. J.-H. Mariejol in 1904 stressed the role of the dissident nobility of the sword who joined the Huguenot movement to avenge grievances against the monarchy and the church: “Whether it wanted to or not, [the Huguenot church] served as a rallying point for all kinds of malcontents. It ceased being uniquely a church; it became a party.”171 Lucien Romier—whose two-volume 1913 study Les Origines politiques des guerres de religion set the tone for much further historiography of the period—also focused on the role of dissident nobility and found their theological bona fides wanting: “In short, the nobility were thinking of their own interest and were not particularly concerned with bringing it into accord with any precise doctrine. It cannot be denied that self­ish passion and sometimes unrestrained greed persuaded many of the nobil­ity and captains to join the Protestants.”172 James Westfall Thompson’s 1909 book, The Wars of Religion in France, which was for decades the standard text in English, took a similar approach. Thompson wrote, “Although the purposes of the Huguenots were clandestinely more political than religious, it was expe­dient to cloak them under a mantle of faith.”173 John Neale located the root of the religious wars in the weakness of the French monarchy.174 As for the dis­sidents who opposed the monarchy, he concluded, “Generally speaking, social discontent found an outlet for itself in religious and political unrest.”175 Henri Drouot’s 1937 work on the Catholic League in Burgundy saw religious factors as merely a cover for class tensions: “With the economic and monetary crisis [of the late 1580s], with civil war replacing foreign war and internal peace, social mobility ceased. Classes were more clearly defined, and above all, social tensions arose and festered, social tensions that religion could disguise in its own colors and intensify with fanaticism, but which were really the basis of local tensions at the time of the League.”176 Henri Hauser wrote of the outbreak of violence in 1562, “Elements of social and political discontent were to become much more significant than religious faith in the complex attitudes of the new Protestants, and thenceforth it became possible to speak of ‘political’ as well as of ‘religious’ Huguenots.”177 In the 19 6os, George Livet’s Les Guerres de religion identified the “economic and social crisis” of France in the sixteenth century as the principal cause of the wars.178 Hauser’s distinction between types of Huguenots indicates that religion was not entirely forgotten as a motivating force, and some mid-twentieth-century historians, such as Robert Kingdon and N. M. Sutherland, maintained the importance of religious factors.179 Until the 1970s, however, the dominant opinion tended to push aside religion in its search for the underlying material causes of the wars.

Natalie Zemon Davis’s 1973 article, “The Rites of Violence,” is consid­ered a watershed for bringing religious factors back into the study of the French wars. Davis objects to the standard practice of reducing religious fac­tors to, for example, class conflict, and identifies the cause of popular riots in sixteenth-century France as “ridding the community of dreaded pollution.”180 For Catholics, the rites of violence promised the “restoration of unity to the body social”; for Protestants, the goal was the creation of a new kind of unity in the body social.181 The rites of violence were drawn from a variety of sources: the Bible, the liturgy, the action of political authority, the traditions of folk justice.182 Their underlying function was the dehumanization of victims.183 Such riots were religious because they drew from the fundamental values of the community.184 Other factors, economic, social, and political, were at play in popular riots—pillaging was common, for example, indicating economic motives—but “the prevalence of pillaging in a riot should not prevent us from seeing it as essentially religious.”185

In his 1993 review article, “Putting Religion Back into the Wars of Religion,” Mack Holt identifies a number of other twentieth-century attempts to take religious factors seriously. According to Holt, the older Weberian approach is being supplanted by a more Durkheimian influence; rather than see material causes as more fundamental than religion, Durkheim identified religion with the rituals necessary to bind adherents to the social group. Holt sees this influence in the work of Natalie Davis, Carlo Ginzburg, John Bossy, Keith Thomas, and other historians who retain Durkheim’s emphasis on reli­gion as social, but give a greater role to human agency than did Durkheim. Holt then goes on to review several attempts to put religion back into the French religious wars. Denis Crouzet’s massive two-volume Les guerriers de Dieu: La violence au temps des troubles de religion, which appeared in 1990, finds the source of the wars in the prevalence of popular apocalyptic visions of the end times.186 The collective psychology of “eschatological anguish,” rather than political, economic, or social factors, was the principal engine of the wars. The Huguenot project of desacralization was a threat to the sacral monarchy and the purity of the entire social order. The threat was inter­preted in apocalyptic terms, as an attempt to create a new world. Holt also reviews Natalie Davis’s student Barbara Diefendorf’s 1991 book, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris. According to Holt, Diefendorf “shows how the normal socioeconomic tensions of the period were exacerbated by confessional strife.”187 Holt notes that Diefendorf is particu­larly effective in showing that Catholic eucharistic imagery was used to rein­force the boundaries of the social order and identify threats to that order. Holt writes that Diefendorf’s book underscores Crouzet’s attempt to “restore the centrality of religion” in the French civil wars,188 but Diefendorf herself positions her book as occupying a “middle ground” between Crouzet’s book, which offers “very little room for politics,” and more standard, “overly politi­cal” interpretations of the period.189 Holt also reviews books by Denis Richet and Michael Wolfe, which do not downplay the importance of religious fac­tors, and one that does, Iron and Blood by Henry Heller. Richet argues that “the ‘idea of nation’ was enfolded with religion during the civil wars”;190 Wolfe argues, “Although politics certainly had its place, as did questions of social interest and economic competition, these bitter conflicts were primarily reli­gious wars.”191 Holt applauds Richet and Wolfe, but takes issue with Heller’s view that the French civil wars of the sixteenth century were “from start to finish … a kind of class war from above.”192 In Heller’s avowedly Marxist approach, both the Huguenot movement and the Catholic League were seen as threats to monarchy and the nobility, who put them down with force. Holt objects to the reductionism implied by Heller’s blunt contention that “[r]eli-gion is beside the point.”193

We have, then, one group of historians that dismisses religion as an important factor in the French civil wars of the sixteenth century, and another group that wants to reclaim religion as an important driving force among oth­ers in these conflicts. (We should note that similar conflicts of interpretation are present in the historiography of the other wars of religion beyond France.) We must at least note that historians have given us ample reason to doubt the straightforward tale of theological zealotry run amok that Voltaire, Rawls, Shklar, and others tell. No academic historian, with the possible exception of Crouzet, tells the story that way. With regard to component (B) of the myth of the wars of religion, then, we must conclude that the myth is at best a distorted and one-dimensional narrative; at worst, it eliminates so many of the relevant political, economic, and social factors as to be rendered false.

But is the solution simply to seek balance among the various factors? Barbara Diefendorf’s question is an apt one: “Must we go from an overly polit­ical interpretation of the period to one that seems to offer very little room for politics, at least as traditionally viewed?” Should we, like Diefendorf, seek a middle ground between political and religious interpretations? Or is there a problem with the way politics and religion have been, in Diefendorf’s phrase, “traditionally viewed”?

  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 141-155.


Switching gears a bit… to how secular society is far worse off than any (save Islamic) religious culture prior. One must keep in mind the mass killings on a grand scals for the Twentieth Century was “prophesied” about by a well-known atheist, Frederick Nietzsche:

Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.”

The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.

  • Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII (New York, NY: Doubleday, Image Books edition,1994), 405-405

Here is an adaptation of the linked article:

The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [Christians] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana), and the church is liable for the unjustified murder of about (taking the high number here) 300,000-women over about a 300 year period. A blight on Christianity? Certainly. Something wrong? Dismally wrong.

A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no evolutionary/naturalistic natural law is being violated in other words (as non-theists reduce everything to natural law — materialism). However, and this is key, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.

(The above two paragraphs are a condensing of Gregory Koukl’s, “The Real Murderers: Atheism or Christianity?”)

“The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature.  Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all….  If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”

  • Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy [New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942], pp. 161-162; found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 206.

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