Interpreting the Way of Peace

September/October, 1982
Volume 17, Number 5

Our historic peace churches are in danger of becoming “peace cults.” Many are preoccupied with what is called “a peace witness.” Many more are embracing “peace” almost as a form of idolatry. Some are speaking of “peace” as the essence of the Gospel. The 1981 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference adopted a Missions Philosophy paper which says, “Peacemaking. .. .is the heart of the gospel. Peacemaking is evangelism. Peacemaking is doing justice and rooting out the causes of war” (page 208, Annual Conference Minutes, 1981).

Many in the Church of the Brethren emphasize the “peace position” as if it were the root of salvation instead of the fruit of our salvation. Many are opting for a humanistic pacifism which is contrary to the nonresistance that was our historic Brethren stance, and runs counter to the biblical position. The Church of the Brethren Agenda (September, 1981) appealed for original songs to be included in a “Peace Songbook.” The collection is to include materials from the “civil rights, anti-nuclear, and environmental fields, as well as feminist and other liberation struggles.” The modern peace movement is accepting an “active” (as opposed to “passive”) form of nonresistance which embraces liberation theology as an undergirding concept. There are more than 50 direct commands in the New Testament to “guide our feet into the ways of peace” — but none of them call for the kind of social action advocated today – protests, demonstrations, pickets, etc.

The world about us is getting the impression that the essence of “the Brethren faith” is in marching, demonstrating, the non-payment of “war taxes,” and a refusal to register for the draft. The major thrust of the statements made at the recent Annual Conference, and of the information often found in our literature, is more focused on these noncooperation activities than it is on the need to call sinners to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Do multitudes in the Church of the Brethren really believe that we can succeed in establishing the Kingdom of God on this earth, without the intervention of Jesus Christ by means of His personal return! Brethren are for the most part overlooking the prediction of Jesus who said the end-times will be characterized by “wars and rumors of wars.”

It is quite troubling that the new peace advocates quote the “peace sections” of the Bible over and over again, and then pooh-pooh those parts of the Scriptures which speak about the virgin birth of Christ, the biblical miracle accounts, and such ordinances as the Christian woman’s veiling. They make much ado about the Old Testament prophets. They quote Jeremiah 5:1 and his condemnation of social injustice – but why not accept Isaiah 9:16 and Jeremiah 6:16 as very relevant also? Or what about Jeremiah 18: 18-23 and Nahum 1:9-10!

The Bible repeatedly states the futility of man’s efforts to establish a lasting peace on earth. Genuine security lies not in lobbying for anti-military legislation nor in worshipping schemes for disarmament, but in biblical repentance and in personally walking closer to the Lord.


Interpreting the Way of Peace

By Harold S. Martin

Of all the dilemmas that the present-day church faces, the matter of war and peace still rightfully draws much attention. Prior to World War II both Mennonites and Brethren approached the teaching about war and the Christian’s relation to it from a strong and clear biblical point of view. Literature that was published, articles that were written, resolutions that were passed at our church conferences – nearly always cited portions of Scripture and then applied those Bible passages to Christian life and conduct. Followers of Christ were challenged to order their lives in harmony with the teachings of God’s Word.

For more than a half century now, a new line of thinking (related to war and peace) has moved into the foreground. Official statements and resolutions call upon the church to work toward a new world and a new social order. The base has shifted from a biblical foundation to philosophical and humanitarian grounds.

The theory is that war settles nothing.

The fear is that the world might be destroyed by a nuclear holocaust.

The call is for some kind of action to stop all wars.

The new moralistic pacifists want all wars to be stopped. The goal is a world without war–all to be accomplished by the clever achievements of man.

The difference between the older nonresistance and the more recent call to peacemaking is not just a difference of opinion about a few Bible texts here and there, but entire theological concepts lie behind the change in thought. There are a number of factors that undergird the shift in emphasis from the older nonresistance to the newer call to peacemaking.


Love and peace and nonresistance is clearly a Bible doctrine. Biblical nonresistance describes the faith and life of those who accept the Scriptures as the revealed will of God – and who cannot participate in warfare because their Lord forbids it. In fact, the word “nonresistance” is coined from the words of Jesus in the Bible when He said, “But I say unto you that ye resist not evil” (Matthew 5:38-39).

Those who have become recipients of God’s grace in their own lives, should show the same grace toward their fellowmen. God displayed His grace toward us while we were yet sinners; He loved us while we were enemies; and just so we are to love our enemies and manifest grace toward those who persecute us (Romans 5:8-10; 1 Peter 2:21-23).

But because the Bible is not an authority for everybody, many have taken a position against war based on philosophical and humanitarian grounds.

War is useless and destructive and in the end accomplishes nothing.

There is great fear of the growing possibility of a nuclear war.

There is great hope in institutions (such as the United Nations) as instruments for maintaining peace in the world.

There is confidence in disarmament, in limiting the manufacture of military hardware, and in banning the testing of atomic weapons.

Every good humanitarian will say that war is sin and that conflict should cease. But often such a view is held without a biblical base. Myron Augsburger tells about the editor of Christian Century (during World War II) and how he changed to a pacifist position, and then gave it up because he felt war was “hell” — and in hell there are no morals. He reasoned that the best thing to do was to get rid of Hitler and start all over again. (He had no biblical base for his pacifism, and thus when human reason could not explain the atrocities of the War, he shifted away from his earlier position).

During the past decade or two, various kinds of humanitarian pacifism have been fairly popular in our society. Multitudes hope that wars will cease — but just let some real danger assail our own families and homes and boundaries – and the mania for war will sweep over our land! (Even the holding of 52 hostages in Iran stirred some real “hate Iran” campaigns). If one’s convictions are based only on high moral ideals, they tend to be shallow – but if our convictions are biblical and evangelical (instead of humanistic and moralistic) — then they do not change with the changing outward circumstances.

We oppose participation in war just like we oppose premarital sex, and long hair on men, and immodest dress on any person — because the New Testament teaches that God’s people are not to conform to these practices of the world. And when the Scriptures speak, we are duty-bound to obey.

Our efforts at peacemaking are not the result of feelings of discontent about the performance of the government, nor the result of fear that the earth will be destroyed by nuclear bombs, but the result of our conviction that nonresistance is a positive requirement mandated in Scripture (Matthew 5:38-39; Romans 12:17-18). Our aim is to live peacefully with our families in the home, with our neighbors in the community, and with our fellowmen everywhere on earth – because this is God’s will for the person who has become a new creation in Christ Jesus.


One of the major errors adopted by many of the new peacemakers lies in the fact that they often believe in the innate goodness of man. One pacifist group told John F. Kennedy (back in the early 60s): “We believe there is a divine power in man that can save the world from war and destruction.” The Quaker writer (John Woolman) once said: “in giving and serving, rather than in possessing and being served, we shall come to a state of society in which the roots of war no longer exist.” in Brethren Life and Thought (Spring, 1978) we read: “Hopefully war will become obsolete. As nations become more dependent on each other for resources, goods, and services – war will seem more insane. The nonviolent peacemaker affirms hope in a caring world community.”

The “new peacemakers” are overly optimistic about man’s capacity to know what is right, and to do what he knows. They assume that human beings are basically rational beings, and that with enough training and legislation, reason will rule over passion. Aristotle believed the same thing two thousand years ago.

The confident view that a new society is just around the corner, contradicts the teaching of Jesus when He said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed murders and wickedness” (Mark 7:20). Only the children of God can consistently live a life of love for their enemies. Unregenerate people are living under the rule of Satan, and the hardness and greed of the unconverted heart for the most part can operate only on the level of retaliation – returning like for like. Thus the state uses the sword (Romans 13) but the Christian blesses those who mistreat him (Romans 12).

The phrase “the fall of man” is not found in the Scriptures, but the fact of man’s Fall is assumed everywhere in the Bible. Each human being has a nature which is prone to sin. It is easier to do wrong than to do right. Man (in his natural state) is under the grip of Satan – depraved, hopeless, and lost. This doesn’t mean that man is in a state where he can do good at all. (Occasionally he does some good things. We find traces of the divine image in man, but that image is always marred).

The fall and depravity of man does not mean that every unregenerate person lives as wickedly as he possibly can, and that unsaved person cannot perform deeds of kindness. But it does mean that corruption has entered every facility of man’s being. To expect non-Christians to manifest agape love is a false dream! Agape love is rooted into the human heart only by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Personal animosities, family feuds, racial strife, national conflicts, religious hatreds – all these hostilities are evidences of the hardness of the human heart.

We recoil at the church’s widespread rejection of God’s revealed truth that man’s basic problem is the deep-rooted evil in his heart. Without a genuine rebirth on the part of each individual, human beings will not make this world a more peaceful place to live in — only a more attractive place to sin in.


The new pacifists contend that the primary function of the church is to become involved in social and economic reform through the legislative action of the state. The following statements are quoted from Ronald Sider’s lectures delivered at several New Call to Peacemaking conferences in recent years:

“Christians must demand a drastic re-orientation of U. S. foreign policy.”

“I dream of the time when tens of thousands of our members will become competent to discuss pending legislation with our Senators.”

Christians will need to transform nations “as we know them” through a profound “political witness.” The “New Call” urges activist nonviolence in place of biblical nonresistance as the Christian approach to war and peace. Its spokesmen are saying that the Historic Peace Churches lack an adequate theology of power — that is, the Mennonites and Brethren and Quakers should become a power-block to coerce the state into transforming the economic order and limiting the manufacture of weapons of war and creating more just social structures. Sider cautions that Christians should not rebel against government, but at the same time encourages economic boycotts, political lobbying, civil disobedience, tax refusal, and even total noncooperation with the state.

The current pacifism espoused by many in the historic peace churches has strong political overtones. Many have adopted the slogans and symbols of the political left. They turn in draft cards, pour blood on draft records, refuse to pay war taxes, and protest with marches and placards and signs. Many peace advocates aim to establish a better world by eliminating war — something which Jesus said is not going to happen. One of the signs of the end of the age and of the return of our Lord is described with the sentence, “You shall hear of wars and rumors of war” (Matthew 24:6). The goal of many of our churchmen today is to bring about a reconstruction of society primarily through political action. They stress that the church should become a base for promoting change in social institutions, and if everybody gets into the act – wars will cease, troubles will be dissolved, and there will be an abundance for all.

Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone, but “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” We are not discounting the fact that there are desperate human needs, and that each Christian is to be a Samaritan. Jesus commended the Good Samaritan for his concern about the man on his way down to Jericho who had been beaten and robbed but Jesus did not urge him to go up to Jerusalem and push for legislation to make the Jericho Road safe for travel! The duty of the church is primarily to confront men and women with the message that human beings are by nature alienated from God and that faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ is the only way to find forgiveness and to become reconciled with God. Those then who are at peace with God become ambassadors of His peace to their fellowmen.

The true Christian has little confidence in movements which seek to reform society apart from the merits of the death of Christ and the experience of the new birth. All of us lament warfare and violence and injustice and crime and prejudice and other evils but we do not seek to abolish these evils by political action, nor by marches and strikes and sit-ins and disarmament and civil disobedience and political crusades, etc. Those who use such means have deviated from the true calling of the church. Our priority is still preaching the Gospel of liberation from the grip of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. If the church fails in its spiritual mission – who then will help meet the deep spiritual needs of people? The Lions Club won’t; the schools won’t; the government won’t. Who is going to fill the gap?


Those who embrace the new approach to peacemaking and who repeatedly advocate the social justice theme – often do so because of what seems to be an unclear understanding of the coming age when Christ will indeed reign as a ruler over governments and will have poured out “the wrath of God upon the earth” (Revelation 6:16).

Those who promote the “new call” dream of a Golden Age, and crusade for a world without war, and urge the nations to disarm, and appeal for “a Christian way” to solve international problems. Many seem to expect the efforts of man to be the great factor in establishing the kingdom of God on earth. Ronald Sider speaks of the necessity for earthly nations to be “mightily transformed,” and says Christians will need to do this through witnessing to the state. He says (page 54, Christ and Violence) that the principalities and powers will finally be reconciled rather than destroyed, and then concludes by saying this is our “eschatological hope for the restoration of the whole of creation.”

I would guess that most human beings hope for a Golden Age. We believe in justice and fairness and proper equality, but many of us don’t believe that the Golden Age will be ushered in by the mere efforts of men. The Bible teaches that a Golden Age is going to come. The weapons of war will be converted into implements of peace – and the prophet Isaiah says, “Then at last all wars will stop and all military training will end” (Isaiah 2:4 L.B.). But that time will only come, the prophets say:

a) “in the last days” (Isaiah 2:2)

b) when “the world will be ruled from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3)

c) when “the Lord will arbitrate among the nations” (Micah 4:3)

The coming kingdom of God will be established by the supernatural and catastrophic appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ! At His coming, He will take charge of events and He will smite the nations. He will rule with an iron grip (Revelation 19:14-16).

I am not saying that we should not work with persons of good will to try and help improve the present world situation. We are to do good unto all men and especially those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6: 10). We ought to give the devil all the trouble we can until Jesus comes! But we must never perpetuate the idea that mankind can bring in the Golden Age without the intervention of God.

We favor the efforts of men and women to help bring about peace, but we must also be realistic enough to understand that among the more than 41/2 billion people on earth – peace is as far away as ever. When we consider how difficult it is to keep peace even in one family (or a small community, or a congregation of believers) – the problem of preserving the peace in an unconverted world becomes overwhelming. Think of all the conferences and alliances and world courts and talk about detente and NATO and SEATO and SALT talks – but still the world is on the brink of war. Man’s efforts to halt the slide toward destruction have not availed much. The greatest wars and the most widespread destruction have occurred in the Twentieth Century. The horrors of Hitler’s gas chambers, the tragedies of Vietnam, the sudden flare-up between England and Argentina, and the violence in our own society — all confirm the fact that our present age may very well be the most turbulent age in human history. The establishing of a just society is a job too big for the puny hands of man to accomplish alone.

In the meantime, Christians are members of Christ’s kingdom now in this present age. The spirit of His kingdom is love; members of His kingdom do not retaliate, nor do they take vengeance on those who misuse them. They know that a time of great tribulation (the like of which never occurred before) is yet to come on earth (Matthew 24:21), and that God will mete out proper vengeance to those who have been enemies of righteousness (Romans 12:19).

At some future time, this present world system will pass away, and Jesus himself will set up a kingdom of righteousness – and hatred and greed and injustice will be banished forever. In God’s new world there will be no hunger, no wars, and no dictatorships. Peace will prevail all over the earth. Daniel the prophet said long ago (when he described some earthly kings who will rise to power in the end times): “And in the days of those kings, shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shalt never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). This is our eschatological hope.

The person who tries to pressure government officials by protest actions (tax refusal, civil disobedience, total noncooperation, etc.) — should be carefully distinguished from those whose first motive for not participating in war is simple obedience to the teachings of the New Testament. There is a great difference between the emphasis of these persons and the emphasis of the Bible. The Scriptures stress doing justice; those who advocate activist nonviolence stress demanding justice – not by violent coercion but by moral coercion. Yet when the Apostle Paul was arrested by the Roman police, he stated his case, but never threatened. He never went on a hunger strike while in jail. He told the Corinthian Christians not to sue in courts to demand justice. Jesus and His disciples did not function as a pressure group for political, social, and economic action.

People who promote activist nonviolence believe that by love, service, political involvement, and hard work, mankind can build the kingdom of God on earth. The nonresistant Christian does not believe that man can engineer the progress of society, nor can he construct a social order worthy of being called the “kingdom of God.” Only the Lord himself can do that. The nonresistant Christian is interested in the world’s problems, but he works at trying to solve the problems in a different way from the methods advocated by the new pacifists. He does not use political and social pressures. He goes about making disciples by bringing men and women into a new family relationship with God, and by teaching them the “all things” which this new relationship means in everyday living.

The foregoing message was delivered at the Sword and Trumpet Conference on Basic Biblical Beliefs, October 16, 1981, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Minor editorial changes have been made.



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Captivity… Dreams… Rulers… Fire… Lions… Prayers… Kingdoms. From a dedicated youth to a faithful sage, Daniel’s life stands as an example to follow.  Yet beyond his personal life, God gifted Daniel with a message of future events.  Though difficult to grasp, these events would shape the world for the coming Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ as King.


Luke presents a warmly personal and historically accurate account of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” This course will survey the Third Gospel, with emphasis on the unique events, miracles, and parables of Jesus found in it.


This class will provide a broad overview of general church history. We will then focus on the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, especially as they relate to the formation and development of the Brethren groups. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


This course is intended to lay down a measure in a world where truth is slippery and often subject to interpretation. Where “Christian Values” become a political slogan, and “good people” are our allies despite their faulty core beliefs. Where Facebook “friends” post memes about the power of God, despite a lifestyle that is anything but Godly. In the process we often fight among ourselves, doing Satan’s work for him. The purpose of this course is to lay the measure of Jesus Christ against the cults, religions, and worship in our contemporary world.


While Protestant translations of the Bible contain 66 books, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize additional canonical books as well.  Where did these books, collectively known as the Apocrypha, come from and why aren’t they part of our Bible?  How reliable are they, and what value is there in studying them?


The goal of this class is to acquire a firm grasp of the teachings and themes of these two general epistles. Peter covers topics from salvation and suffering to spiritual deception and the return of Christ. These letters are packed with warnings and encouragements for Christian living.


A detailed study of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the “I Am” metaphors in John’s gospel. Why did Jesus describe himself in these terms? How do they relate to each other? We will look at spiritual and practical applications to further our Christian growth.


Have you ever been visited by someone who said they wanted to study the Bible with you so that you might discover the truth together?  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have much in common with evangelical Christians, and they seem to be well versed in the scriptures.  But what do they really believe and how can we effectively witness to those who have been ensnared by this false religion?


While we may consider Hosea as one of the minor prophets, his message vividly illustrates the major doctrine in all Scriptures.  The theme of God’s unconditional love is magnified and extended beyond those deserving it.  God expresses tender words towards His erring people inviting them to turn from sin to reconciliation with Him.


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The Brethren Bible Institute believes in the discipline of the whole person (spirit, soul, and body). We will aim to train students not only about how to study the Bible in a systematic way (2 Timothy 2:15), but also how to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). God calls Christians to the highest of character when He commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and holiness requires discipline.

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Personal appearance and grooming tell much about one's character. Students are expected to be dressed in good taste. In an attempt to maintain Scriptural expressions of simplicity, modesty, and nonconformity, the following regulations shall be observed while attending BBI.

MEN should be neatly attired and groomed at all times. Fashion extremes and the wearing of jewelry should be avoided on campus. The hair should not fall over the shirt-collar when standing, nor should it cover the ears.

WOMEN should wear skirts cut full enough and of sufficient length to at least come to the knees when standing and sitting. Form-fitting, transparent, low-neckline, or sleeveless clothing will not be acceptable. Slacks and culottes are permitted only for recreation and then only when worn under a skirt of sufficient length. Wearing jewelry should be avoided on campus. Long hair for women is encouraged and all Church of the Brethren girls (and others with like convictions) shall be veiled on campus.

The Institute reserves the right to dismiss any student whose attitude and behavior is not in harmony with the ideals of the School, or whose presence undermines the general welfare of the School, even if there is no specific breach of conduct.

The Brethren Bible Institute is intended to provide sound Bible teaching and wholesome Christian fellowship for all who desire it. The Bible School Committee worked hard and long at the task of arriving at standards, which will be pleasing to the Lord. It is not always easy to know just where the line should be drawn and we do not claim perfection. No doubt certain standards seem too strict for some and too loose for others. If you are one who does not share all these convictions, we hope you will agree to adjust to them for the School period, for the sake of those who do. We are confident that the blessings received will far outweigh any sacrifice you may have to make. If you have a special problem or question, please write to us about it. To be accepted as a student at BBI, you will need to sign a statement indicating that you will cooperate with the standards of the School.