In the pantheon of evils that are a part of the human experience, war and the destruction and carnage that follow in its wake rank in the uppermost tier of wickedness. War has been a constant of human history and, despite the promise of the transforming power of Jesus Christ, we are warned (Matthew 24:6) that it will be with us until the eschaton. Given these twin dynamics of the horrific and the constant, the Christian worldview is forced to confront the issue and settle a position from which we determine our thoughts and actions in relation to the act of war. The Christian is under competing pressures that obtain from the Lordship of Christ and our membership in society. Shall we declare ourselves to be conscientious objectors when the country that supports the foundation of our religious liberty is under attack? Can we determine for certain that a war is just, and thus appropriate to engage in for the follower of Christ? These questions just begin to enunciate the concerns that a spirit led Christian must wrestle with in approaching the desires for peace and the reality of war.
There is a great body of work created by Christian thinkers to which we can turn to begin to develop our own thinking and what will follow in the coming weeks is a series of posts surveying the variety of positions. In general we will encounter four schools of thought: engaging in the Just War, offensively approaching a Preventative war, the Nonresistance role as a noncombatant, and ultimately Christian pacifism. A quick read of the last sentence tells us right away that Christianity has engaged the full range of philosophy toward war, from full participation to absolute prohibition. If asked, can you define your position such that it will not wither in the face of challenge?
The Bible of course is the ultimate resource from which we develop our beliefs and even a cursory knowledge of the text shows us that war has been a reality for God’s people since they became such. Early in the OT we encounter mentions of war and as God’s people coalesce around their movement into the Promised Land they are told that they are going to have to fight the current residents to take possession of the land and later, take up a defensive mindset in order to retain it. All this of course, at the behest of Yahweh who generals and guides the battle Himself. Is God therefore in support of war, despite the destruction and loss of life that follow? What of the words of Christ that even non-Christians can quote to ‘turn the other cheek’ toward the face of evil? Is God of two minds? Certainly not, but the complexity of thinking about war and how the Christian should think about the topic should be obvious by now. As difficult as it is however, the demands of the Gospel and our allegiance first and foremost to our Lord and His will should cause us to soberly and carefully determine the most correct position to take.
“War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.” ~ Martin Luther King