Arguments for Nonresistance

Oct 07, 2013

This post was originally posted in December of 2009 on an old blog of mine. It’s being reprinted here (with some updates, below).

I think, now that we’ve defined our terms, I’m going to go ahead and take a look at the passages used to support nonresistance. I mentioned in the last post that I hadn’t come to any solid conclusions yet; that’s still true. I have, at this point, unresolved issues with both sides. In this post I’ll simply be repeating the arguments of others in favor of nonresistance. Some may be correct, or they may not. I am not responsible for their accuracy. :-)

First, and most prominent, is Matthew 5–the Sermon on the Mount:

 ”You have heard that it was said, ’An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

 ”You have heard that it was said, ’You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV)

In the Old Testament, people were told ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ or ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But now, in the New Testament, Jesus is changing that–either making a new, better, moral code, or perfecting the old one, which was incomplete because of the “hardness of their hearts” (Matthew 19:8). More on this point later.

When taken as the Anabaptists argue, this passage would forbid Christians from taking many positions in government. To elaborate, they came up with a variation of Luther’s “two kingdoms” theology, calling it by the same name. They argued that the governments of this world are part of the Kingdom of man (or kingdoms of men), and that Christians are part of the Kingdom of God. These kingdoms, they argue, are mutually exclusive–you cannot be a part of both the kingdoms of men and the kingdom of God. Furthermore, they argue that the kingdom of man(or the world) is ruled by “the prince of this world”, as opposed to the kingdom of God, which is ruled by, of course, God. To support this claim, they cite passages such as John 14:30-31 and James 4:4.

They typically concede that some interaction with the world is still necessary. The Amish try to minimize this interaction as much as possible, though the Mennonites and many of the other groups do not. Take Stephen Russell, for example:

Paul says clearly in 2 Corinthians 6 that the Christian is not to dilute his loyalty to God with any other commitments, but rather the Christian is to be separate from connections involving worldly loyalty, ‘for we are the Temple of the living God.’ This restriction does not exclude those interactions that pertain to daily living but do not involve a commitment of loyalty, ‘since then you would need to go out of the world.’
“Overcoming Evil with Good”, pg. 81

Proponents of nonresistance also point to the fact that there are no passages dealing with how Christians in government positions should act–lending strength to their argument that Christians should not take government positions. (On its own, this would be an argument from silence; however, as incidental support for a separate exegetical case, it becomes a valid inductive argument.)

There are a few other Scriptures appealed to, but I think they all cover the topics I just listed. There may be more, though, so if you know of one I’m missing, post a comment!

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.