Doug Chaplin’s blog Metacatholic is one of my favourites, for me the best new blog of 2007.
But Doug does sometimes make some absurd claims. His most recent ones relate to Christian pacifism in the Anabaptist tradition. Here is some of what he has written here, including in his own comments:
I fail to see how the Anabaptist tradition offers any answer other than an opt-out, a misplaced application of eschatology to the created order.
I’m not sure you can, as a Christian, pray for the welfare of a democracy without engaging in its political processes.
But engaging in the political process means coming to a clearly reasoned view about the state’s use of force … and that means questions of judicial punishment and war
I genuinely do think the Anabaptist position is not clearly reasoned for political participation: the most I think it can offer clearly is an alternative protest movement that prevents full participation in a democratic state.
In response to this I commented:
Well, Doug, if the majority in a democratic state rejects “just war” theory, or pragmatism, and votes for pacifism, and a democratic government is formed on that basis, is that still “an alternative protest movement” and not a democratic government? …
Peter, I regard that as so unlikely as not to be worth considering. It’s a bit like Richard Dawkins using the non-existence of the tooth-fairy as an argument against God.
Meanwhile in comments here Doug wrote:
My biggest problem with identifying the church solely with anti-war arguments is that I think it creates appeasement in place of peace, and hamstrings any possible participation by Christians willing to be guided by their faith in high-level politics.
it is an observation that no-one will ever elect a government that is automatically and absolutely against any and all war, and no-one who held such a position as a matter of inviolate principle would be able to obtain high office.
I see two arguments here, and both are extremely dubious:
- He makes an extremely strong prediction, apparently that never in any country will a pacifist government be democratically elected. His point is not that this is undesirable (that is a quite separate argument), but simply that it will never happen. My response to this was
I can only assume that you hold to a very high doctrine of the total depravity of humanity and the impossibility of more than a small proportion of any population doing anything other than evil.
- He seems to make an absurd argument for why Christians must support some kind of just war theory. He starts from the correct point that Christians must be concerned about the welfare of the society that they live in. In a democracy this implies a willingness to participate in the democratic process, which he seems to identify as aspiring to be part of the government. But, he claims, pacifism will never be government policy, and so any pacifist is always opposed to government policy and so can never be part of a government. So Christians should not be pacifists so that they will have a realistic chance of joining the government.Now this may be good pragmatic advice for someone who aspires to a high political office. For I accept that it is unlikely that a pacifist government will be elected here in the UK in my lifetime. But it is possible, and indeed probably desirable for most, to do one’s Christian duty without aspiring to be a member of the government. One can be involved in local government, or even be a back bench parliamentarian, while remaining true to pacifist principles, at least in some political parties. In fact I would suggest that it would be immoral rather than right for a Christian to abandon their principles in order to forward a political career. There are enough unprincipled politicians out there already that we don’t need Christians to join them.
Now I am not a pacifist by clear and definite conviction. But I am very attracted by this, especially through what I have been learning about the Anabaptists over the last year or so. I have more or less abandoned the just war position which Doug seems to hold, although he admits that there are many difficulties with this position. Well, I will admit that there are also difficulties with Christian pacifism. But I accept that the just war position is a reasonable one for people to hold despite its difficulties. I just wish that Doug would accept that pacifism is also a reasonable position for Christians to take. But I’m afraid that rants of the kind he has been writing will not convince me, rather they will encourage me all the more towards pacifism.