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Sunday, August 14, 2005

The More Things Change: A Response to Nariel

Back in February of 2003, I wrote a post that is as relevant now as it was then. It's an answer to Nariel's questions about how I can be a Christian and yet still support the war, and the necessary decisions and actions of that war. This was also the first time I posted my own thoughts, rather than relying on the writings of others.

Most of the links no longer work, but the link to Peggy Noonan's pivotal peice We Are All Soldiers Now is still active, and required reading. Written November 2, 2001, its words of warning ring loud 4 years later.

But, Nariel specifically asks how I can reconcile Jesus' words about turning the other cheek to supporting war. Few articles have explained it better than this one by Darrell Cole in First Things in 2001. Charles Stanley gives a layman's version of Just War Theory here. I don't expect to change any minds with this, but hope it clarifies my position:
In Scripture, God clearly establishes the government’s responsibilities and authority over us, as well. In Romans 13:1 and 4, Paul writes, "every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. . .for it [the government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

The government is ordained by God with the right to promote good and restrain evil. This includes wickedness that exists within the nation, as well as any wicked persons or countries that threaten foreign nations. Obviously, there are times when a country should not go to war; but there are also times when, if a nation does not do so, they suffer the consequences. Therefore, a government has biblical grounds to go to war in the nation’s defense or to liberate others in the world who are enslaved.

You may think, "Well, how do we reconcile that with what Jesus said about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek?" (Luke 6:27-30) In that passage, Jesus was speaking to us as individuals. If someone treats us badly, we should love him anyway. We can pray for our enemies, and do good to those who hate us. The way someone treats an individual is one thing; the way he treats an entire nation is a completely different issue. The Bible teaches that it is the responsibility of the government’s leaders to protect the nation against those who would destroy it.
And here, from Darrell Cole's book When God Says War is Right:
...pacifists also like to make much of Jesus' advice to "turn the other cheek" when struck (Matthew 5:38-41; Luke 6:29-30). But this passage becomes clear when we stop trying to interpret one small portion of Scripture without regard for the whole. For Calvin, the bessage was "best interpreted" by Paul, who enjoined us to overcome evil with good and to forgo personal vengeance. Thus we see-along with Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas and Luther-that Jesus' goal is to restrain personal retaliation, not to restrain political force, which is, after all, an agent of His Father's wrath and love.
Few ideas are actually new, especially theological ones. The Early Church Fathers, and the founders of the Reformation dealt with issues of war and peace long ago. They are as relevant today as they were when they were written. And an important heritage for this generation, as we seek to win World War IV.

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