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Orthodox view of self defence

Discussion in 'Orthodox Christian DIR' started by lovelylife22, May 13, 2015.

  1. lovelylife22

    lovelylife22 New Member

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    I have read that the orthodox church considers self defense to be a sin. I understand that the concept differs from the western approach. Can you explain it in more detail from the orthodox perspective? Articles such as "Why killing in Self defense is a sin" by author David J Dunn and
    "May Christians kill " by Fr. Phillip Lemasters come to mind.
     
    #1 lovelylife22, May 13, 2015
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
  2. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    My involvement with Roman Catholic church went on for years.
    almost became a priest.

    The concept you ask stems from the Carpenter's silence in persecution.
    He made no resistance and offered little speech.

    In His ministry He did say.....turn the other cheek.

    I have done so.....growing up in a bad neighborhood.
    Fair warning....it's not a safe practice.

    Where I lived it was not unusual for a complete stranger to approach and pump a fist in your eye.....
    as if to knock you down.....just to see if he could.

    With one eye swelling shut quickly you are already at a disadvantage.

    To look your opponent in the eye....with what you have left.....is risky.
    He might very well proceed.
     
    #2 Thief, May 13, 2015
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
  3. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    btw....having been in court over such things.....

    Man's law is quick to settle.
    The judge wanted to know who swung first and why.

    My opponent did not have a good excuse.
    Judgment went against him.
    Restitution was never delivered.
    The judge sent the sheriff and found nothing.

    I went looking as per instruction....the Carpenter did say....
    Seek out your brother and settle with him....then offer your gift at the altar.

    In those days finding someone was time consuming.
    Nowadays ...stalking is illegal.
     
  4. Shiranui117

    Shiranui117 Pronounced Shee-ra-noo-ee
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    Yes, self-defense is a sin, because harming another person is a sin. Having a good excuse doesn't take away the sin. Augustine's doctrine of jus ad bellum, or just war, posits that there are circumstances when waging a war is just. We Byzantines (Orthodox and Catholics) say that things like war and violence are always wrong, but there are times when fighting to defend yourself or others or your country is the lesser of two evils.
     
  5. Musing Bassist

    Musing Bassist Mihi Quaestio Factus Sum

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    But a component of sin is the wilful intent to do something despite knowing it is wrong. We can say that violence is always unfortunate, but to say that someone commits sin despite legitimate justification for the unfortunate violence seems to be stretching the concept of sin a little too far in my view, because it ignores the intent of the action which isn't sinful. (Assuming violence was the only viable option to prevent even greater problems).
     
  6. Shiranui117

    Shiranui117 Pronounced Shee-ra-noo-ee
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    I personally cannot support this opinion. Speaking as a martial artist, yes, we do sometimes have to resort to violence to defend ourselves or others. However, by intending to defend ourselves or others, we also have to intend to do whatever is necessary to achieve that outcome. If that involves me shattering someone's arm to do so, then I intend to shatter that person's arm in order to defend myself or someone else. I personally think that this particular viewpoint ultimately says "the ends are all that matter, and we can ignore the gravity of the means". And I don't mean to say that the perspective you have put forward is evil in the slightest--it does make sense. But we have to also keep in mind how that intent is achieved.

    That being said, I would much rather be guilty for the sin of killing someone than be guilty for the sin of standing by and doing nothing as someone else was murdered. I do think acting in defense of someone else, even to the point of killing the perpetrator, is a far lesser sin than allowing the innocent to be slain.
     
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  7. lovemuffin

    lovemuffin τὸν ἄρτον τοῦ ἔρωτος

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    I wouldn't go so far as to make an absolute statement that self-defense is a sin, although I would suggest that orthodox teaching, and examples like that of the desert fathers suggest a different approach to conflict as an ideal. But I don't think that approach is easily simplified to absolute and universally applicable moral propositions. But let me cite a story from those desert fathers:

    "There was a great hesychast in the mountain of Athlibeos. Some thieves fell upon him and the old man began to cry out. When they heard this the neighbors seized the robbers and took them to the magistrate who threw them into prison. The brothers were very sorry about this and they said, 'It is through us that they have been put in prison.' They got up and went to Abba Poemen to tell him about it. He wrote the old man saying, 'Consider the first betrayal and where it comes from and then examine the second. In truth, if you had not first failed within, you would not have committed the second betrayal.' On hearing Abba Poemen's letter read (for he was renowned in all the district for not coming out of his cell), he arose, went to the city, got the robbers out of prison and liberated them in public."
    From this and other stories it's clear that as an ascetic ideal, not doing harm to anyone else, being self-sacrificing, was considered a highest principle. The "failure within" is a failure of dispassion, that is, the ideal of a truly dispassionate life in which one would not even cry out at the sight of robbers, because one has "perfect" love as God, who "makes it to rain upon the just as well as the unjust." But should this picture of an ideal love be absolutized or rationalized to mean that a young woman couldn't defend herself against a rapist? Or a parent act in self-defense? Not everyone is a monk. The ideal exists as a symbolic reminder of Christ's love, as a principle it reminds us to be aware of our normal tendency towards narrow self-interest. But it shouldn't be an absolute such that any self-defense is inherently sinful. Discernment and economy are also important notions in orthodox morality.
     
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