While Tertullian emphasized the negative aspects of the military to Christian discipleship, Origen pointed out the positive vision of a life of Christian peacemaking. He criticized the army as a society of “professional violence,” pointing out that Jesus forbids any kind of violence or vengeance against another. “We will not raise arms against any other nation, we will not practice the art of war,” he wrote, “because through Jesus Christ we have become the children of peace.” To him the spiritual life means rejecting all forms of violence, and “absolute pacifism.”
A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (Bass, Diana Butler)
I know I have mentioned this fact several times on this blog but it is worth talking about yet again. Most of the early Christians believed that being a soldier was just not compatible with being a Christian. When Jesus told us that the two most important things in a Christian’s life is to love God and to love all your fellow-man that precluded an occupation directed toward killing others. It was not until four hundred years later when Augustine penned his treatise on “just wars” did this even begin to be reversed.
Here are a couple of other quotes from this book related to Augustine:
Augustine (354–430), an adult convert to Christianity and the reluctant bishop of the North African city of Hippo, emerged as the dominant theologian of Constantinian Christianity. His questions shaped Western Christianity for more than a millennium. Perhaps no one struggled more than he to understand doctrine, practice, and the institution of the church in the new cultural context, as shown by his thousands of pages of theological speculation on politics, the church, the nature of God, and Christian living….
Although he had written reams about original sin, predestination, the creeds, just war, and heresy, the mature Augustine returned to the central point of early Christianity: “This love embraces both the love of God and the love of our neighbor, and ‘on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”
Augustine, like Paul before him, was a prolific writer/thinker of his time. He, like me sometimes , had an opinion on just about everything. It was interesting to see that later in his life he basically came back to the original premise of Christianity. I wonder what he would say if he were alive today about how so much of his words shaped Jesus’ religion. I wonder if he wished he could have taken back some of those initial thoughts?
I am somewhat of a believer in the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson that Augustine, along with St. Paul, took a very simple message of Jesus and made it complicated.
How did we get to the point today where so many Christians seem to celebrate military conflict. They proudly encourage their children to become warriors in our military. Many have almost made being a soldier a requirement for being a “real” Christian.