5 questions about war

1. Is it possible to execute a ‘Just’ war?

Violence and war are evidences of human depravity. But God ordained a role for human government to punish evil doers (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:1-4). This means that measured uses of force against evil can be executed with moral justification. Could this apply to wars aimed at the restraint and punishment of evil?

A Just-war theory suggests that it’s possible for a war to be justly initiated and (to a large extent) justly executed. Sometimes war is the God ordained function of human government to defend against violent aggression and to protect the innocent.

2. What would you say to Christians who follow pacifism?

From a Christian perspective, the pacifist position of non-violence in all circumstances is a failure to make a connection between two chapters of the Bible (Romans 12 and 13). Romans 12:17-21 emphasizes the need to absorb and overcome evil through non-violent means. These are the personal ethics of Jesus’ followers (as found in Matthew 5:38-48). Romans 13:1-4 emphasizes the need to restrain and punish evil through God-ordained governmental and judicial authority. These authorities are appointed by God for use measured and appropriate use of force to deal with evil (cf. Genesis 9:6).

We belong to God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13) and must function on a personal level according to the ethics of Jesus. Yet we are also responsible as citizens of the government God has placed us in and under (Acts 17:24ff.; I Peter 2:13-14). The important point is that we must be faithful to all Scripture not just the parts of our particular tradition.

3. Is war evil or, at best, a necessary evil? Could war ever be a good thing?

This cuts to the heart of the matter. Are the men and women who defend our freedoms doing an evil work? Are they the tools of Satan? We must consider the God ordained role for human government (I Peter 2:13-14). It’s possible for a government to become evil in its function but it is equally possible for it to do a good work —even in a just war. If all war is evil, how could God command war (see Joshua 11:20)? In the N.T., John didn’t tell soldiers to become pacifists, he told them to be content with their wages (Luke 3:14). Two of the early followers of Jesus were centurions (Romans soldiers) and they were never told to renounce their occupations or to drop their arms (Matthew 8:5-15; Acts 10-11). In Revelation 19:11-19–when Jesus returns in Judgment, He will lead a Just-war and there will be no selective service for His followers. The choice to go to war can be a good and right thing to do—even a loving decision. But this does not mean all that happens in a war (with a just cause) is morally acceptable.

4. Explain to us how a Just war can be a form of love?

“When just, war can be a form of love. Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is no restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love—of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others? Indeed, such a war may be a Godlike act, since God himself restrains evil out of love for his creatures. This is not to say that we fallen human beings can manage to conduct just war perfectly, without sin, the way God conducts himself without sin; it is to say that failure to do the good that is in our power to do may reflect not only a want of courage, but a lack of love.” (D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places) (Proverbs 3:27)

We are faced once again with Biblical truths in tension. In this case, it’s the tension of two loves. Scripture commands us to love our neighbor and our enemy. Sometimes, out of love for our neighbor, we must protect him from evil. This might require the restraint and punishment of those who do evil (a restrained and discriminate use of force). If it calls for war on the international level (our international neighbors), the war must be engaged in a just manner (see: A Christian understanding of war).

If we have the ability and resources to help and we do nothing—this would be unloving. “Christian love demands selectiveness on the question of war. War is not just simply because our government commands it. On the other hand, war is not wrong simply because our conscience forbids it. Conscience can be wrongly conditioned by culture, sentiment, and expedience (Rom. 2:14, 15; I Tim. 4:2). To correct this, conscience should be informed by the realities of life and the responsibility of love. Selectivism in warfare requires that we understand what constitutes a just war. Not all wars are just, therefore we must determine which ones are and which ones are not in order to fulfill our responsibility of love” (Josh McDowell, Love Is Always Right, page 198).

5. Are Christians sinning when they stand by and watch evil people perpetuate violence?

“Defenders of the Just War tradition regret that they live in a world where they have to kill human beings in order to restrain evil; that is to say, they regret the Fall. But they find it to be even more regretful for Christians to stand idly by while people are being abused and killed unjustly.” (Cole)

6. Is the United States guilty of acting as the world’s policemen?

Whether we like it or not, we are a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long range missiles and nuclear power have required us to be global in our concerns and activities. We are also the most powerful nation in the world and with that power is responsibility. Generally, we have been a very kind and generous nation toward other nations (see: Proverbs 3:27). Those who resent the USA should consider the history of the conduct of nations toward others. The USA has been the most generous of all nations in human history.

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Capital Punishment, Church and State, Darrell Cole, Death penalty, Democrats, Depravity, Ethics, Evil in the world, Good Wars, Government, Human depravity, Just War, Justice, Law, Morality, Political Correctness, Politics, Problem of evil, Punishment, Republican, Terrorism, War, Worldview. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 5 questions about war

  1. Pingback: War: A Christian understanding « A Time to Think

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  3. Pingback: War-weariness in America | WisdomForLife

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