Thanks to the insights of a good friend doing some work on Yoder as part of his doctoral thesis, I'm inclined to think that Yoder has a similar problem to Hauerwas, a gaping hole in his theology of atonement, that undoes the central theological underpinning of pacifism. In this post I want to explore how the kind of pacifism I advocate is theologically grounded in classical reformed doctrines. I wish I had a snappy name for it, but really I just think it is a deeply biblical pacifism.
I suppose that a logical place to begin with is with total depravity. To recognise that all human beings are born in sin, are affected by sin, are shot through and through with the corrupting and tainting power and influence of sin, so that in every aspect of their image-bearing being they are sinful, is the frank and stark assessment of humanity that comes from this reading of the scriptures. The corollary to this is that it is through the original sin, the Fall, that death enters the world as judgment, so that all have sinned and so all fall under the judgment of God, the sentence of death. Death is inevitable, and deserved. Those two twin facts underpin this biblical pacifism.
That all have sinned, that sin is judged, that God opposes evil through his judgment, set the frame against which a doctrine of substitutionary atonement makes sense. That the Christ died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins and so ransom and redeem us by the price of his blood, is the good news, the gospel, which means both that neither do we have a judgment to pay (death), nor a judgment to enact.
Closely linked to the doctrine of atonement though must be an eschatology of Christ's return, his second coming not to die a second time, but as judge of the earth. So that, those who have rejected the atoning work of the cross will face the defeat (as evildoers) and their judgment (as transgressors and rebels), as eternal death, even as Christ's return brings vindication for his forgiven people and resurrection to eternal life. The sure hope of eternal resurrection life is a necessary hope for those who would embrace biblical pacifism.
Lastly in this whistlestop tour, biblical pacifism is grounded in a high view of the Sovereignty of God. That he is the almighty transcendent Creator who made all things, rules all things, works in and through all things to achieve his good and glorious purposes, is the basis of a faith that can trust in his outcome, more than our methods.
If you don't believe in total depravity, then some are more deserving of death than others, because sin is not innate and all-encompassing, and so some have more right than others. biblical pacifism rejects the pride that privileges the life of self and kin over the stranger, because it is no respecter of persons.
If you don't believe in God's judgment, then this life is the only context in which good can triumph, justice can be done, and vengeance taken. Which means that if men don't do it in this world, it won't get done. biblical pacifism rather trusts that God will bring justice, and if not in this life, how much worse in the final judgment.
If you don't trust in the atonement, then there's no surety of forgiveness, which means you have no basis to extend forgiveness to others.
If you don't believe in the second coming, then God's ultimate judgment will never come, and so evil must be defeated in this life, in this world.
If you don't believe in the resurrection, then life is worth killing for.
And if you don't trust in the Sovereignty of God, you must seek to control and determine things for yourself.
It's not any kind of optimism about our world that drives this biblical pacifism, but a profound optimism about God and his redemptive and ultimate purposes.
And you see, this is why biblical pacifism can play the card of "It's more important to be faithful than to secure the right outcome." It's because (a) the 'right' outcome is ultimately secured not by our actions so much as God's goodness, sovereignty, justice, and atoning death in Christ. It's because (b) means create ends, ends do not justify means, and so faithfulness in act will result in faithful outcomes, even if these seem bad or wrong. It's because (c) ultimately we trust that faithfulness will be more effective in securing right outcomes, but we don't lose anything when they don't. It's because (d) we have already died to self, lost all, and been forgiven with a resurrection hope, so we have nothing to lose in martyrdom, but everything to lose in unfaithfulness.