The Christian View of War
by Rod Jackson
In this article I will attempt to show what the bible teaches in regard to war. I do not claim to be an expert, and I personally have a tendancy for absolute pacificism. However, I wish to examine what the bible teaches in regards to war. All verses will be from the New American Standard Bible, anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity. In some places there will be links to other articles which will flesh out that idea that is highlighted.
First there are some important distinctions that must be made. I note that nobody deserves to live. So there is no philosophical reason why people should be talking about 'inherit rights to life'.
Also it should be noted that killing and murder are not necessarily the same thing. So since they are not necessarily the same thing then that means one can kill without murdering. Obviously a part of war involves killing others. So this means that in war one may be able to kill another without murdering them. Because God has banned murder, God could never condone a war which involved murder.
"Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not known any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generation of the sons of Israel might know, to teach them war, only who had not known it formerly)." Judges 3:1 & 2
So here we see that God wanted to teach, those Israelites who had no prior battle experience, the art of war. Thus there are wars which do not involve murder, but merely killing. So we must conclude that war is not necessarily wrong. So if it is not wrong then does that mean that war is always right?
"And the LORD said to me [Moses], 'Say to them [Israel], 'Do not go up, nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be smitten before your enemies.''" Deuteronomy 1:42
"and command the people [of Israel], saying, 'You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; do not engage in strife with them, for I will not give you ant of their land, even as little as a treading of the sole of a foot because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession." Deuteronomy 2:4 & 5
"Then the LORD said to me [Moses], 'Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of his land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.'" Deuteronomy 2:9
So here we can see various nations that God commanded Israel not to fight with. So we must conclude that war is not always right either. So sometimes war is right and sometimes it is wrong. So the question arises when is it right? Well we should note that all sins do not have the same degree of wickedness, there are levels of sin.
Because there are levels of sin, that means that one person can be more wicked than another. Also because nations are made up of people then one nation can be more wicked than another. So why can God destory whole nations? It is because they have crossed the threshold of wickedness.
Now it is important to note there is a difference between the cival law and personal rules. Now one of the jobs of the Government is to protect its people and it can do this by going to war. When the first Government was established in Israel, that of King Saul, we see that part of his 'job description' was to make war.
"And he [Samuel] said, 'This will be the custom of the king who will reign over you [Israel]: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fiftiess, and some to plow his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots." 1 Samuel 8:11 & 12
So the king has authority to have an army. In Deuteronomy 20 there is a list of the Cival Laws that pertain to war. So we have seen that it is the King or Government that may send a nation to war, but not all wars are good. The bible portrays times of peace as desirable.
"He [God] scatters the peoples who delight in war." Psalm 68:30b
So even when a king goes on a just war, it is not a delight. War should not be desired. People who continually stir up war are described as evil in these next verses.
"Rescue me [David], O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, who devise evil thing in their hearts; They continually stir up wars." Psalm 140:1 & 2
Now King David went on many wars, in fact in 1 Chronicles 28:3 God says that David could not build the temple because he is a man of war. But as we can see from the Psalm, even though he went on wars he did not delight in them.
There are various prophecies regarding war. War is prophicied until the end of the world (Daniel 9:26). After the worlds' been destroyed God will abolish war (Hosea 2:18, Zechariah 9:10, Micah 4:3). Christians are told not to let wars and rumors of wars worry them for they must occur (Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7 & Luke 21:9). There will be the final battle of Armageddon between Israel and all nations led by Gog and Magog (Rev 16:16 & 20:8, Ezekiel 38 & 39)
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