All the “Brave” Evangelical Pacifists Making Their Play – Another Moment to Resist Penal Substitutionary Theory

With the publication of the report on the CIA use of “enhanced interrogation,” the newly convinced Evangelical pacifists are displaying their moral outrage. It feels chic to me, another phase in hipster Evangelicalism.

Yes, I know that pacifism can be an intellectual option, though the power of common grace among humans made in the image of God keeps it thankfully marginalized. That effete Evangelical academicians don’t do war comes as no surprise. And, painful thought it is to an early church fan that I am, the presence of pacifism amongst the early church leaders is resurfacing. I would like to believe that there is a lot that the Church Fathers got right. This isn’t one of them.

This new pacifism fad seems to me to be linked with the hipster refusal of penal substitutionary theory (PST) . This is the “divine child abuse” theory, according to some. They see in PST violence at the heart of the redemption and unworthy of God.

It is also linked to a rejection of “harem” warfare in the Old Testament as God sanctioned. Now it is being interpreted as the way that Israel understood the character and will of God. It has also been linked, though not so often directly, with a new universalism strain, a la Rob Bell and Origen.

In the person of Dick Cheney these new pacifists are finding some traction for their moral outrage. Andrew Wilson recently tweeted “The fact that Dick Cheney cannot be arrested for this sort of thing astonishes me. Very, very odious.” Now, Andrew Wilson as a rule takes on hipster Evangelicalism of the Brian Zahnd and Rob Bell variety. I like his stuff.

It has often been said, but it bears saying again. At the root of this argument is a kind of moral equivalency model, similar to multiculturalism. No one side or culture can be said to be more right or more wrong than another. And it is true that if the US had no higher goals than Al Quaeda or ISIS, then enhanced interrogation techniques are always the same no matter who makes use of them.

I am not persuaded. And I am thankful that hipster Evangelicals are not allowed at the table where only adults are admitted. Dick Cheney is one of those adults who was put in the position of deciding how far one would go to protect the next 3,000 at risk or the millions at risk in a nuclear weapon was in the mix. Cheney made the decision. I believe it was a valid one, even if others would not have chosen it.

While hipster Evangelicalism is cool to some, it only guarantees that the religious movements that embrace it will only get whiter, older and smaller. And the reason that is so is because it resists common grace available to all men, a common grace that sees in the protection of the innocent a higher call.

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