This post was originally posted in December of 2009 on an old blog of mine. It’s being reprinted here (with some updates, below).
The doctrine of nonresistance is one that, arguably, has its origins with the early church. Ever since then, though, it’s been relegated to minor sects/denominations within the Church. The Waldensians, the Anabaptists, and their later descendants, the Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, and Quakers, among others, have all held to some form of nonresistance.
In relatively recent times, there has been a general tendency to make a distinction between the terms “nonresistance” and “pacifism”. Stephen Russell, for example, in his book “Overcoming Evil God’s Way”, argues that pacifism, in the vernacular sense of the word, “almost never means the absolute rejection of war as a way to solve our problems. Rather it is commonly used to mean a rejection of war as the primary or initial means to obtain political or national goals.”
Furthermore, Russell argues, the terms nonviolence, nonviolent action, and nonviolent or passive resistance are also different from the Anabaptist concept of nonresistance, because all of these terms represent some kind of political attempt to “force change upon the ruling authorities or a segment of the population.” (pg. 5)
In contrast, Russell defines nonresistance as, in one word, “defenselessness”. It does not allow for violence even when all other attempts to make peace have failed. Furthermore, it does not allow for the taking of human life to defend human life. We’ll get into some reasons why he says this later on.
The reason I’ve been studying this is because my church’s unofficial position is nonresistant. Secondly, after becoming convinced of Calvinism, I ran into a conflict–in all of church history, I know of no one who was both a Calvinist and nonresistant. There were many nonresistant Christians, and far more Calvinists, but no nonresistant Calvinists. And that worried me. So I begged/purchased/borrowed some books on nonresistance and have been studying it for a while. I haven’t yet come to the point where I can either defend nonresistance or show that it’s unbiblical, though, so I can’t call it finished. But I’ll keep posting some of my thoughts on the subject.
Update 2013-10-07: Since this post was written in late 2009, I’ve developed stronger conclusions about nonresistance. I do believe that nonresistance is unbiblical, and the rest of the posts in this series will unfold in that direction. For the sake of being current, I also no longer attend the church mentioned in the last paragraph.