chapter  5
18 Pages

Responsibility and Limitation: The Early Christian Church and War

ByDarrell Cole

The popular notion of Christian attitudes toward war can be summarized as follows: the neat historical trajectory of pacifism, then just war, and, finally, holy war. Alan Watt has accurately summarized the popular scholarly opinion as one in which "Augustine was the first mature Christian to struggle in public and intellectual manner with the justification, goals and means of armed conflict." Figures such as Origen are used by some contemporary pacifist theologians as examples of true, untainted, Christian belief. John Howard Yoder went so far as to argue that the evidence is so strong for a dominant early pacifist church that Christians cannot be faithful to the early church unless they are pacifists. Origen did not write much about Christian participation in the military. Largely concerned with scriptural exegesis, Origen used allegory as a tool to formulate a multilevel system of Christianity similar to Clement's, with a spiritual elite on top and the simpler, ordinary Christians below.