Christians’ opinions about war cover the continuum from pacifism to patriotism—from no war to any war for the homeland. I think both positions are based upon selective use of biblical teaching.
It is true that God’s perfect world did not have war; however, it is incorrect to conclude from that truth that God is therefore against all war—e.g., a pacifist. We know that God is not a pacifist since He actually led Israel into war e.g., Jericho, Joshua 6; Ai, Joshua 8.
It is true that war is a dreadfully horrid situation. It is the most dreadful of conditions one can imagine except for tyranny and hell; unfortunately, the reality is that in a fallen world it is, at times, the only way to prevent would-be despots from imposing totalitarianism upon every man woman and child. Tyrants view humans as a means rather than an end; consequently, it is perilous indeed to believe that such a malevolent mind could value humane agreements or treaties beyond what is self-serving.
Sometimes, war is the price for peace and the freedom to live as human beings rather than chattel. War has served as a shield against unmitigated evil rampages like that of Antiochus Epiphanies, Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, and their ilk. And there shall surely be others; even now, some are positioning themselves for terror.
If you are thinking that this reality is a hard truth, I concur. The only consolation I can give is that it will not always be so, but in this fallen world it is painfully and quite undeniably so. To deny that war is at times a force of good is to beckon evil dictators that presently skulk in the shadows out of fear to come into the light with a vengeance.
Tyranny must be understood for what it is, an insatiable monster. Totalitarianism is not satisfied with peace or prosperity, nor stilled by the lofty ideas of pacifism. In fact, pacifism, weakness and lost wars by their opponents are the inspiration of tyrants rather than the answer to their diabolization.
Since we know that some wars are just, like the ones that God sanctioned for His people in the Old Testament, we can say with certainty that not all wars are immoral; moreover, sometimes the worst thing is an unwillingness to go to war in order to stop dictators who seek to enslave the world regardless of the human cost.
Under Omar, the second caliph, Muslim armies defeated the Persian and Byzantine empires. Next they conquered present day Iraq, Iran and Central Asia. Then they moved to Syria, Damascus, Egypt and into Europe, and conquering almost all of Spain. Their move to conquer the world was stopped by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in France, 732AD. Without Martel’s victory over Islam, 9/11 might never have happened for there would have been no reason to blowup their own buildings.
Defensive war has saved the world from tyranny many times. Chamberlin was hoodwinked by Hitler and Mussolini; and had Churchill not arisen, England would have born the image of the Third Reich rather than merely paying ceremonial tribute to the Queen. Had the United States and the Allies not defeated Imperial Japan, Hitler, fought the cold war, and remained an indomitable force for peace, other aspiring dictators would be the superpowers of the day, and pacifism, albeit too late, would be recognized for what it is, a threat to peace.
We are presently at war in Iraq, and there are threats from Iran, Korea and others who seek to enslave the world. Amidst all of the clamor, how do Christians decide which war is just? Unfortunately, unlike Israel of old, we do not have a direct command from God to go to war with… However, that does not mean we do not have guidelines. The principles most often used by Christians to determine the difference between a just and an unjust war are contained in what is known as The Just War Theory.
The Just War Theory gives several biblical principles for determining when Christians can support their government’s declaration of war. Augustine (354-430) formulated some of them, later others like Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) added points, and then Hugo Grotius(1583-1645) a Dutch Protestant described as the “father of international law”, contributed to the expression of the classic just war doctrine. Reformers accepted them and the vast majority of non-pacifistic Christians have accepted them for centuries.
Dr. Richard Land clarifies, “The just war doctrine does not seek to justify war. Instead, it tries to bring war under the sway of justice as understood by Christians. It seeks to limit war and reduce its damage.” (The crisis in the Persian Gulf and ‘just wars’ by Dr. Richard Land)
The following document delineates the principles of the Just War Theory. This will help Christians determine when war is justifiable because the question is not always one of war or peace, but peace through war. microsoft-word-just-war-theory-4-24-07.pdf