Christians and Military – Part 5

Having and maintaining a military has always been very important to growing and sustaining a nation. The military allows a nation to grow and also defend itself from other nations growth. The Just War theory was developed using Augustine’s writing The City of God. The theory is mildly complicate, but basically purports that a Christian can go to war against his nations enemies if certain criteria have been met, such as, to stop innocent people from being punished/hurt.

The problem is the bible makes no real distinction to support the Just War Theory. Probably a better solution would be to help the citizens of this nation to flee from their nation and find peace until they can return to their homes safely. But this post is not really about whether or not the Just War Theory is a valid or useful theory. What does pertain is whether or not you believe Christians should be a part of the military. There are several problems that arise when Christians join the military.

A Christian who partakes in the military during a time of war is placed in a position where he must hate, kill, or work against his enemies. This is a huge problem in the face of scripture (love your enemies, etc.). He either has to disobey his government or he has to disobey God. I believe that a wise Christian would not purposely put himself in a situation like this.

We know that God used Israel as a nation to destroy other nations. He also used other nations to destroy Israel. This is probably one of the biggest and best arguments for allowing Christians to join the military, unfortunately I sense that it falls flat on its face. The biggest reason is that we have a more recent revelation from God telling us to love our enemies. We also have a better understanding of what God was doing/showing us through the Nation of Israel. I am still confident that God uses nations to bring down and raise up other nations. But as Christians we are not called to be a nation temporally, rather we are a part of a new, better nation.

In the United States there is a draft, drafting its citizens to fight during war periods. There have been many people who have fled during these drafts, and I believe there are ways to get out of the draft (legal ways). I believe it would be best for a Christian to either find a legal way to not be part of a war, or to be a part of the war as someone who does not harm others.

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is talking to people about how they can live repentant lives. In verse 14 he talks to a Soldier, which reads, “{Some} soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And {what about} us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse {anyone} falsely, and be content with your wages.”

It is interesting that he does not tell them to stop being soldiers. I could make up a million reasons why he did not tell them to stop. Unfortunately for me, I do not feel I have the liberty to make stuff up. The best thing I can say is that I sense that the majority of the evidence in scripture points towards my position and that there are a few verses that seem to go against my position but are not clear enough to do so.

Thoughts?

Comments

  1. Jeffrey E.W. says

    Hey Lew,

    This is an interesting series. In the past I haven’t really thought about where I stand on these issues, but you’re making me think with these posts. I’m not in disagreement necessarily, but, in your opinion where do Christians draw the line between not being involved in government but then justify using it’s tools and reaping benefits from it? (currency, programs, security, quality of life, etc.) This is an honest question I’ve been thinking about. For example, if we pursue and use Washington’s money aren’t we participants in Washington’s government and therefore forced to play by it’s rules which also could cause divisions both here(US) and abroad (World).

    -Jeff

  2. Jeff,

    I’m glad that this series is making you think. Even if you don’t come to the same conclusions, I believe that it is important to at least think through some of these things.

    Your question is a very good one. I have been thinking about similar questions for a while now. There are a couple of things we have to consider. First, we cannot help which country/government we were born into. In a way, I cannot avoid taking part in the U.S. government because I was born here. Terrorist Muslims don’t care about my opinions, they see me as the enemy regardless. So there is some division that we just cannot avoid. This series is only about reducing the divisions that we can avoid. Also, I am not necessarily saying that we should not participate in the government. Just that we should limit our participation.

    I would not say that currency is a big participation in government. For instance, I was born in Maine. Since we were so close to Canada, my friends and I would go to Canada. We exchanged our U.S. currency for Canadian currency. This did not really give us any special rights or active participants in the Canadian government.

    As far as the programs the government offers its citizens. In my opinion that is wholly up to the government. They charge their citizens taxes for these programs (thus it becomes more of a service they offer for money). And the tax is not voluntary (well, unless you want to go to jail). So the government tells you to pay them and they offer some benefit for doing so. There have been governments who tax their citizens without offering any sort of benefit.

    I know this probably doesn’t answer your questions, but I hope it gives you more ideas to think about as you ponder them.

    Thanks again for the great comment.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  3. Nomodiphas says

    When considering the justness of war I think one needs to begin first by reckoning upon the nature of justice. If justice is not absolute, but rather a value that is contingent on God’s power, then it would make perfect sense to say that war was just at one time (the Old Testament period), but unjust at another (now, the Church age). If however justice is absolute, eternal, and unchanging—a part of God’s character rather than his nature (and it seems it would be, for why would God be praised for His justice if justice is merely whatever God decides to do?), then war was just in the Old Testament (for it was commanded by God) and continues to be just today.

    But of course just because war can be just it does not follow that all wars (or any) are just. In fact in the Book of Amos other nations are judged by God because they waged unjust wars (see chapter one and the curse against the Ammonites for ripping open pregnant women in order to enlarge their boarders). I agree with you that Augustine’s just war theory, while in theory helpful, has no scriptural basis. So we are left with a dilemma, war can be just, but we have no clear way of determining whether or not a given war is just.

    And is this not the dilemma of much of our Christian walk? We are always looking for moral platitudes. If X do Y. We want to identify X so we know when to do Y. But that is not the way God interacts with us. We live in relationship with Him. He tells us many things about how we should live and what He values, but we must walk with Him day to day in relationship to understand how to apply them. For example, I know that I am not to steal. Say I live in an apartment with utilities included. Am I stealing if I keep my apartment heated to 85 degrees this winter or keep my lights on when I leave? Or what about borrowing something for a really long time? I know I am not to steal, but applying this to my day to day life requires a relationship with God. God did not simply give us a list of rules to mindlessly apply, the Bible does not have the detail to do that.

    The same goes with war. On one hand some say all war is wrong, others say it can’t be wrong. The new testament on the one hand tells us to turn the other cheek, but on the other hand Jesus praises a centurion for his faith and does not tell him to quit the army (while he did instruct others to stop their specific sins). This is a paradox. A Roman centurion would do far worse things than any general today (mass crucifixion) for far baser purposes (old-school imperialism). Yet, like the soldiers who talk to John the Baptist, he is not instructed to quit the army. However, many early Christians died rather than obey what they took to be unjust orders.

    What do I take from all this? Paul and Peter both seem to write that we need to give a high level of deference and obedience to our governments. Jesus said to give to Caesar what is his: what is the difference between taxes to support a military or serving in one if asked to do so? Instead of saying all war is unjust, we as Christians should serve in all wars and if we decide collectively through prayer that a war crosses a line of injustice (like being asked to kill all the Irish) then we should collectively stand down. This would be a far greater indictment and clearer statement then a fraction of us condemning all war.

    Has war done much evil? Of course, but it has also done much good. The chivalry of the middle ages was very admirable. Many fight war out of love and war can encourage good virtues such as courage and self sacrifice. And it reminds men of their mortality, which is always a good thing.

    If anyone is a fan of C.S. Lewis, he gave an address to the Oxford Pacifist society during World War Two entitled ‘Why I am not a Pacifist.’ He has far greater clarity and strength of argument than do I.