Shalom and the Quaker Peace Declarations

These posts explore the way in which the biblical vision of shalom can be seen in early Quaker experience and understandings.

This first section on Quaker peace declarations owes alot to Lloyd Lee Wilson's essay The Biblical Basis for Quaker Peacemaking in his Wrestling with our Faith Tradition (Quaker Press 2005).

The uniquely Quaker understanding of Shalom can be observed in the first four public documents that attempted to explain and justify the Quaker Testimony against war. These are:

• James Nayler’s The Lamb’s War (1657).

• Edward Burrough’s To the Present Distracted and Broken Nation of England (1659)

• Margaret Fell’s A Declaration and an Information from us the People of God called Quakers (1660)

• George Fox and Richard Hubberthorne’s A Declaration from the Harmless and Innocent People of God called Quakers (1661)


1. We have been disarmed by the Lord

The roots of all war can be found in human nature in its fallen state (where humans are alienated from God) and in particular in our desire to exclusively and selfishly possess and use the creation (the lust of greed). However, we have experienced a spiritual transformation in which God has lifted us out of the fallen state and taken us back into the state of paradise again. This process has destroyed the lusts that lead to war. We have been turned away from the world and towards God. This has not been achieved by our own efforts but by the work of Christ within us. Christ has freed us from the motivation and compulsion that causes humans to fight.

"Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace and ensue it; to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God; seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all. We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men, as James iv. 1--3, out of which the Lord hath redeemed us, and so out of the occasion of war. The occasion of war, and war itself (wherein envious men, who are lovers of them-selves more than lovers of God lust, kill, and desire to have men's lives or estates) ariseth from lust All bloody principles and practices, as to our own particulars, we utterly- deny; with all outward wars and strife, and fightings with - outward weapons, for any end, or under an pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world.”

Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

2. Christ is our king and he has commanded us not to fight

We regard Christ as our priest, prophet and king. Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not to worldly governments. Christ consistently commanded his followers not to fight. He prevented Peter from using violence at his arrest and refused to use force himself even though the power was at his disposal (Matthew 26:51-53). Christ came to save, not to destroy (Luke 9:56). The use of violence represents idolatry and a lack of faith. God’s people must rely exclusively on the Lord to protect them and should patiently endure persecution (Revelation 13:10).

“…Christ said to Peter, 'Put up thy sword in his place;' though he had said before, he that had no sword might sell his coat and buy one (to the fulfilling of the law and the Scripture), yet after, when he had bid him put it up, he said, ‘he that taketh the sword, shall perish with the sword.’ And further, Christ said to Pilate, 'Thinkest thou, that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' And this might satisfy Peter, (Luke xxii. 36), after he had put up his sword, when he said to him. 'He that took it, should perish with it;' which satisfieth us, (Matt. xxvi. 51-53) And in the Revelation, it is said, 'He that kills with the sword, shall perish with the sword; and here is the faith and the patience of the saints.(Rev. 13:10)'”

Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

3. The Kingdom of God cannot be established by human force

The Kingdom of God is fundamentally different from the kingdoms of the world (John 18:36). God has made it clear that the Kingdom will be achieved by spiritual means, not by force (Zechariah 4:6). Christ has led us into the new peaceable covenant mentioned by the prophets (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). In this state we are literally unable to engage in violence and war. Therefore we are engaged in a spiritual struggle with spiritual weapons, not an outward war with physical weapons (2 Corinthian 10:4).

“..for we have chosen the Son of God to be our King, and he hath chosen us to be his People; whose Kingdom is not of this World (John 18:36), neither is his Warfare with carnal Weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4), neither is his Victory by the murdering and killing of men’s Persons; but we are given up to bear and suffer all things for his Name's sake; and our present Glory and Renown therein stands till the appointed time of our Deliverance, without the Arm of Flesh, or any multitude of an Host of men; this we declare.”

Edward Burrough 1659

4. We want everyone to enter the Kingdom of God

We are not interested in fighting for the kingdoms of this world or trying to take them over. These kingdoms will be replaced by God’s Kingdom. So we wait and pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God where Christ will rule in every one of us. It is Christ’s rule in human hearts that brings Shalom. This is God’s wish and intent.

“The Lamb's quarrel is not against the creation, for then should his weapons be carnal, as the weapons of the worldly spirits are: "For we war not with flesh and blood," nor against the creation of God; that we love; but we fight against the spiritual powers of wickedness, which wars against God in the creation, and captivates the creation into the lust which wars against the soul, and that the creature may be delivered into its liberty prepared for the sons of God. And this is not against love, nor everlasting peace, but that without which can be no true love nor lasting peace.”

James Nayler 1657

5. We recognise the right of government to punish evil-doers

We recognise that in the world as it currently is (i.e. a fallen world) God has set up government and the law to use force and violence where necessary to control and punish those who do evil (Romans 13).

"Therefore in love we warn you for your soul's good, not to wrong the innocent, nor the babes of Christ, which he hath in his hand, which he cares for as the apple of his eye; neither seek to destroy the heritage of God, nor turn your swords backward upon such as the law was not made for, i.e., the righteous; but for sinners and transgressors, to keep them down.”

Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

Biblical References

James 4:1-3
1From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

John 18:36
36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Isaiah 53:12

Revelation 13:10

10He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

Zechariah 4:6

6Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 2:4

4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Micah 4:3
3And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

2 Corinthians 10:4

4For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;

Matthew 5:37
37But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Matthew 5:44
44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 26:51-53

51And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. 52Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?


Popular Posts