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Eastern Mennonite grad takes on pro-life ethics in new book

“This is a book about killing.” That’s the opening descriptive line in Eastern Mennonite Seminary grad Rob Arner’s new book.

Arner, of Holland, a village in Bucks County, Pa., is a 2007 master of arts in religion graduate of the seminary. His recently-published “Consistently Pro-Life: The Ethics of Bloodshed in Ancient Christianity” is an extension of his master of arts in religion thesis at EMS. The book was chosen for publication by Pickwick Publications, a division of Wipf and Stock.

Arner, who grew up United Methodist, came to EMS hoping to better understand pacifism.

“I chose EMS because I wanted to explore the peace church trajectory as a faithful calling of Christian discipleship,” said Arner.

“During ‘Christian Tradition’ class my first semester, I heard about the Constantinian shift,” he said.

“I learned that one of many changes during this time was that the ancient Christian church changed from being pacifist and opposed to war to embracing violence. This intrigued me, and I began reading the works of the ancient Christian church find out more,” Arner continued.

“A theory began to suggest itself to me—no matter which century in the early church, or which part of the empire, every early Christian author that I encountered denounced human bloodshed in a variety of contexts – from abortion, to killing in war, and everything in between, espousing and living a consistently pro-life ethic.

“In this book I want to challenge both liberal and conservative readers on their assumptions about the taking o f human life,” Arner stated. “The gospel of Jesus is neither liberal nor conservative, and I make the case in this book that the Christians of the first three centuries consistently maintained that ALL killing is incompatible with the teaching and example of Jesus.”

In a review of the book, Mark Thiessen Nation, professor of theology at EMS, said, “No one has reminded us as clearly as Arner, in this compelling and wonderfully written book, that if we are to be true to the substance of the teachings of the Ancient Church, true to the Spirit by which it was animated, then we must recover their commitment to a Consistently Pro-Life theological ethic.”

Arner is currently working on his PhD at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is also an adjunct instructor at Chestnut Hill College and Eastern Mennnonite Seminary’s Lancaster (PA) campus.

Arner’s 152 page book is available through Wipf and Stock online at for $13.60.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary is a graduate school of theological education on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., offering three-, two- and one-year programs of study.

Story by Laura Lehman Amstutz

augusta free press
augusta free press