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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Christians & War?

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KingJimmy
Member



Joined: 2003/5/8
Posts: 4419
Charlotte, NC

 Christians & War?

I just wrote this paper for my Christian Ethics class on what a Christian response towards war should be. It's brief, and I thought it'd make for a good discussion on the forum :) Just a note, this isn't a very formal paper, thus, there is a lack of quotes/footnotes. I was required though to keep the paper to this format.

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[b]Current Debates[/b]

Most debate about what role Christians should take in war today are focused on two basic positions. One position, called pacifism, says that Christians should never fight in a war. The other position, often identified as the "just war" theory, says that Christians should only fight in wars that are justifiable on ethical grounds.

The term "pacifist" derives itself from the Latin word "pacifici," which is translated as "peacemakers" in Matthew 5:9. Pacifists such as Stanley Hauerwas believe that the teachings of Christ call those who would follow Him to living a life marked by nonviolent love, a love that would overcome the powers of this world not through coercion and force, but through the power of Christ's death. This willingness to not use force is to be a sign of our confidence that we live in a new age, where the wolf can dwell with the lamb. It is to be a demonstration of God's love by a people who have learned not to fear another. In being faithful to this task, the Church shows the world what it means to have true peace under the dominion of Christ in His kingdom.

However, those that believe in the theory of a just war say there are times when the government they are under goes to war, that Christians must take up arms with them. According to Norman Geisler, such wars include those done in self-defense against an invading, aggressive nation. Another type of just war is where one nation seeks to protect another nation who has not done anything to warrant acts of aggression. Such wars waged are done so in the name of justice and love. Those who ascribe to the just war theory say that the pacifists version of love is an "unbiblical, fuzzy, soft-soap view of love" (Geisler, 231). This view charges the pacifist with committing a sin of omission, by just sitting back, and letting injustice occur.

[b]Historical Treatments[/b]

The early Church seems to have universally adhered to pacifism. Justin Martyr said, "we...have...changed our warlike weapons, our swords into plowshares, and our spears into implements of tillage." Tertullian believed that if a soldier was converted, they must immediately abandon their military service, which he says many Christians had done, and be prepared to die a martyr. Early church orders and canons officially forbade military service. The soldier was told that he must leave his service, or to be rejected from joining the Church. Eusebius records a case of a 21 year-old by the name of Maximilian from Numidia, who appeared before a proconsul named Dion for induction into the army. Maximilian refused to be inducted, saying that he could not serve as he was a Christian. Dion breathed threats against Maximilian saying that if he refused service, it would cost him his life. To his threats Maximilian replied, "I am a Christian and I cannot do evil... I shall not perish, but when I have forsaken this world, my soul shall live, with Christ my Lord." As a result of this statement, Maximilian was killed.

However, when Constantine came upon the scene in the fourth century, and the Church was given the position of the official state religion, the Church turned about-face in its stance on war. Interestingly enough, the Council of Arles threatened pacifists with excommunication! St. Augustine writing shortly after would be the first to systematically defend the right of Christians to participate in just wars. His view would come to dominate the middle-ages, with Luther and Calvin following in his steps during the Reformation. It was not until the Anabaptists, and their spiritual descendants (Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites) that Christians would begin to again adhere to pacifism.

[b]Biblical Statements[/b]

Pacifists typically base their views off passages such as Matthew 5:39: "Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Also, Paul tells the Christians in Rome to not overcome evil with evil, but rather "overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) Also, Paul says that Christians, "...do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful..." (2 Cor. 10:3-4) Perhaps the most interesting positions argued are based upon the theological concept of the "already...not yet." This position invokes passages from Isaiah of the coming Messianic kingdom, where individuals will "hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:4) Since the kingdom is not simply something in the future, but is experienced in the already, then it is argued that this way of life is to be characteristic of those who "go up to the Mountain of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:3).

Those who adhere to the just war theory find their primary support from Romans 13:4 where the government is said to "bear the sword... [as] a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." It is then argued that Christians who participate as leaders or soldiers within the military must use the sword to punish injustice, namely, to protect the rights of others, such as killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2). This view also adheres to verses such as Genesis 9:6 that say if anybody murders another man, then that man must be killed. So, if an aggressive nation attacks another nation without provoke, it is therefore the duty of that nation, or other nations, to invoke the justice God demands in Genesis 9:6.

[b]My Argument[/b]

I personally find the "already...not yet" argument that some pacifists employ as a powerful argument that cannot easily be dismissed. Especially in light of the early Christian tradition that seems to have taken up a pacifist attitude, in which believers were martyred for their refusal to take up the sword, and instead chose to hammer their weapons of war into tools used for harvest. However, in the "already...not yet" argument, there is a part that seems to be forgotten. That is, the "not yet" aspect of it. Those who invoke such passages as Isaiah 2:1-4, or Isaiah 11:1-9 seem to forget that the ultimate context these passages speak of are universal in scope, where there is no more threat of war. The reason why the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard with the young goat, the calf with the lion, with a little boy leading them is because in the ultimate realization of this passage, there will be no more reason for them to be enemies, for universal peace will exist, and death will be no more. It is therefore my argument that such passages cannot be used to exclude Christians from participating in war.

The "already" aspect of peace we see from such passages can be found in the diverse and often clashing cultures that come together under the reign of Christ within the Church. No longer is there any reason for the Jew to be hostile with the Gentile. For Christ has now reconciled the two groups in His body, and they have peace with one another in Christ. Often the pacifist selects verses from the Sermon on the Mount to prove that Christ wants us to be pacifists, and is teaching us something radically new and contrary to what was taught in the Old Testament. Such verses Matthew 5:39 which admonishes the Christian to turn the other cheek, can also be found in Lamentations 3:30, "Let him give his cheek to the smiter." When one understands the Sermon on the Mount to be the true interpretation of the Old Testament law, as a correction to the Pharisee's distorted interpretation, then one sees the teaching of Christ in continuation of the Old Testament, which at times calls for war.

[b]Bibliography[/b]

Geisler, Norman L. Christian Ethics: Options and Issues. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989.

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

Wenger, J.C. "Pacifism and Biblical Nonresistance." Online. http://www.bibleviews.com/Biblicalnonresist.html . Retrieved 25 May 2004.


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Jimmy H

 2004/5/26 14:10Profile
Agent001
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Joined: 2003/9/30
Posts: 386
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 Re: Christians & War?

Would the "Holy War" doctrine (such as that used to justify the Crusades) fall into a third category?

In this case, war is waged because the adherents consider themselves to be the representatives of God, seeking to expand God's kingdom on earth by military force.

The line between [i]"holy war"[/i] and [i]"just war"[/i] is sometimes blurred and hard to discern. It does seem to me that some Americans consider the War in Iraq more in terms of fighting a Holy War for God.

On another note, the ethical choice of "just war" theory adherents is still difficult. Christians still have divergent opinions as to whether the Gulf War or the recent War on Iraq is just.

As Christians living in an imperfect world, we still face tough ethical decisions in our everyday lives. Thankfully, the Christian life is not just about following biblical guidelines, but also a dynamic relationship with the Spirit.

My two pennies. :)


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Sam

 2004/5/26 14:42Profile
KingJimmy
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Joined: 2003/5/8
Posts: 4419
Charlotte, NC

 Re:

Quote:

Would the "Holy War" doctrine (such as that used to justify the Crusades) fall into a third category?
...
The line between "holy war" and "just war" is sometimes blurred and hard to discern. It does seem to me that some Americans consider the War in Iraq more in terms of fighting a Holy War for God.



Perhaps that could be a third category. During the middle ages, a holy war was a just war. But not all just wars were holy wars :) I believe the idea that we can expand the kingdom of God through war is a failed interprise. Just because somebody confesses Christ as Lord when the sword is put to their throat does not mean they confessed Him in their hearts. The kingdom of God is expanded when men are dying to be born again, not when they must die if they are not born again.

Quote:

On another note, the ethical choice of "just war" theory adherents is still difficult. Christians still have divergent opinions as to whether the Gulf War or the recent War on Iraq is just.



Indeed. It can be difficult to tell if a war is indeed justified. Though today with the idea of the "free press" it can be a little easier for each person to be convinced in their own mind, as the ability to research the causes for going to war are just a key stroke away. Can you imagine having gone to war 500 years ago, and never knowing why except for what you were told from your military leaders?

Are not all wars just in the sight of the nation that wages them?

I believe the Gulf War was probably just, as we were attempting to protect another nation who was being invaded for no other reason than being taken over for land. It seems perhaps the war on Iraq was just, but I'm still a little fuzzy on exactly why we went to war on them... though I've heard millions of reasons on Fox News and such.

Ultimately, I think it will take insight from God to decide if one should pick up the sword. Personally, I don't believe I could go to war and kill another person. But I don't believe I can denounce those who do.


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Jimmy H

 2004/5/26 15:03Profile
Yodi
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Joined: 2004/4/23
Posts: 663
Escondido, California

 Re: Christians & War?

I'm not a guy and therefore don't think it would be right for me to fight in a war. Me being a girl, maybe I don't have much say on whether Christian men should go to war or not, but I do have an opinion.

First off, have any of you ever seen the old black and white movie "Sergeant York"? He was a real guy that I believe fought in WWI. He had become a Christian and I believe got drafted into the war. He tried to get out of it and didn't believe it was right, as a Christian to kill people. But he was encouraged to borrow a book on our past Presidents and their views on war and to take some time to think about it. So he went up to a mountain, fasted and prayed, and the verse came to his mind about, "Give to God what is God's and give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's." So he fought the war and was very victorious, with God's help. After fighting he concluded that by killing the Germans in the war, he was stopping evil. Therefore, by taking a life, he was saving many more.

I don't know much about what the New Testament says about war, but I do know about the many examples of war told in the Old Testament. I would have to take the [i]"just war"[/i] side. Many times when the Israelites fought war, it was to protect themselves from being taken over from ungodly nations that worshipped idols. I totally believe in war fought in self-defense.

As far as the topic of [i]"holy war"[/i], I would have to agree with the Scripture the pacifists refer to in Ephesians about our war not being fought with flesh and blood, but with principalities and so forth. I don't know that you can force someone to become Christian or should attempt to. Where does free will come into that? I do believe that God respects free will because that's how He can truly know if we really love Him or not. I don't know that God ever willed for Kingdom culture (Christianity) to take over the cultures on this earth. I think Christianity will dominate once Jesus has come back and God makes a new heaven and a new earth. That will be long after people were given more than enough chances to turn to the Lord.


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Yolanda Fields

 2004/5/26 19:23Profile
Matthew2323
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Joined: 2004/5/17
Posts: 235
Colorado

 Re: Christians & War?

Quote:
Me being a girl, maybe I don't have much say on whether Christian men should go to war or not, but I do have an opinion.



The Scriptures also have an opinion about women in war. Here are a few articles explaining God's view of women in combat.

[url=http://www.visionforum.com/corner/newsletter/newsletter.asp?id=2004_05_28]Newsletter[/url]
[url=http://www.visionforumministries.org/sections/hotcon/ht/womeninmilitary/mama_wears_combat_boots.asp]When Mama Wears Combat Boots[/url]
[url=http://www.visionforumministries.org/sections/hotcon/ht/womeninmilitary/endingwaronterror.asp]Ending the War on Terror[/url]

If you'd like to find the Sgt. York video that was mentioned, the Vision Forum has it for sale. They also sell a video about Sgt. York from a man who does historical re-enactments.

God bless,
Matthew


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Matthew

 2004/6/1 14:40Profile
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Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4807


 Re:

KingJimmy wrote:

"Though today with the idea of the "free press" it can be a little easier for each person to be convinced in their own mind, as the ability to research the causes for going to war are just a key stroke away."

I have a problem with the words "free press." We often use terms that have been repeated so many times that we actually believe that the condition exists. Someone said in the recent past, "Repeat the lie often enough and it will become the truth." Look to the movement to legitimize homosexuality. We are being bombarded by the opinions of the few to effect the change that they are seeking.

I do not believe we have a free press. I believe the majority of the information that we hear has been spun to effect a general consensus. A case in point, how many times did you hear the words "weapons of mass destruction." Just reflect back on the times leading up to the start of the war.

I am not saying that WMD do not exist in Iraq. What I am trying to point out is the level of saturation that these 4 words created prior to the start of the war. The military industrial complex, will for the sake of national security, promote their belief. Their mission is to form a consensus around the objective that they see as critical to their existence.

Remember we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against Satan. His war is fought in the minds of men. So the question must be asked of us Chrisrians, What are our minds being filled with? Is it man's ways or the Highway of Holiness?

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/6/2 18:03Profile
Matthew2323
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Joined: 2004/5/17
Posts: 235
Colorado

 Re:

Jeff,

Is your contention with the war in Iraq or war in general?

I wrote a little about why the Ephesians 6 verse does not negate physical involvement in another thread. It's the second posting in there. [url=https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=2139&forum=36]Christians & politics?[/url]

Thoughts?


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Matthew

 2004/6/2 20:36Profile
rocklife
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Joined: 2004/4/1
Posts: 323
usa

 Re:

King Jimmy, I'm not either one of those (pacifist or just war supporter).

I am open to whatever God wants and that's it.


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Jina

 2004/6/2 20:57Profile
rookie
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Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4807


 Re:

Matthew 2323 wrote:

"Is your contention with the war in Iraq or war in general?'

I see war as a curse. See Deuteronomy chapter 28. War is a result of man disobeying God. The fruit of the Order of Melchizedec is peace and righteousness. Man and Satan contend with God.

"He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision, He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure."

Why does God do this? "The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take councel together [b]against[/b] His Anointed, saying let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us." Psalm 2

The Iraq war is just another curse, just like 911. The USA is no different. Are we living under our High Priest? According to Scripture, Israel is the only nation who has a special place in God's plan. All other kingdoms, as far as I understand the book of Daniel and Revelation are against God. Why do we struggle so hard to want to believe our nation is any different. Look to the fruit. We have killed more children in the last 30 years than all the combatants of all the wars we have participated in. Our jails exceed all industrial nations in the percentage of population that is encarcerated. Our educational system is at the bottom of the list of industrialised nations. As Chanin wrote today in another thread, we are full of dead man's bones. If these are the end times, as so many profess, why do we not come to terms with what Scripture teaches us. The economic system, the political system, the church is dead. Period!

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/6/3 12:36Profile
rookie
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Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4807


 Re:

Sorry Matthew 2323

I went on a rant, and did not fully address your question. I read your post pretaining to politics. Yes, I believe God calls men to bring to light the darkness of the actions of the rulers of this world. John the Baptist did not fear man, he feared God. John the Baptist died for the truth. It is the word of God that is our weapon. The world hates the light and will not come into the light. And I believe God calls men to shine their light on the dark things of this world.

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/6/3 12:49Profile





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