Christian Ethics (303) War Part 1

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Introduction to some of the issues involved in a Christian thinking about war and violence. as used at LTCi Siliguri.

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Christian Ethics (303) War Part 1

  1. 1. War …and some thoughts on violence in general
  2. 2. When is it right to go to war? Is there a proper way to fight a war? Are there things that are unacceptable to do in war? Who can you kill in a war situation?
  3. 3. Preston Sprinkle brings a Christian perspective to the issues: Should Christians participate in national war? Should Christians ever think positively about the use of violence to accomplish justice? Should Christians support a national war? Can a Christian use violence on an individual level? http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/series/christians-and-violence-series/
  4. 4. What does the Bible teach about war?
  5. 5. What does the Bible teach about war? Is there a difference in what the Old Testament and New Testament teach?
  6. 6. What does the Bible teach about war? Is there a difference in what the Old Testament and New Testament teach? Does the NT ever support the use of violence to resolve a problem?
  7. 7. 38 “You have heard that it was said,‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also… But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Some verses from the NT…
  8. 8. 38 “You have heard that it was said,‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also… But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This verse is about retaliation (the act of returning an attack) - so if retaliation is prohibited what form of violence might be allowed by Jesus? Is non-violent love something that should be shown to all our enemies? Some verses from the NT…
  9. 9. Matt 26 - Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Jesus never used violence against those who attacked him or other people.
  10. 10. Rom 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
  11. 11. 1Peter 2 - Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
  12. 12. Preston Sprinkle summarises the non-violent argument like this… (1) Jesus acted non-violently, which lays down a pattern for his followers, (2) violence is everywhere prohibited and never commanded for the church in the New Testament.All arguments that support the use of violence by Christians must wiggle it out of indirect implications from the text in the face of clear, direct commands of the text.
  13. 13. BUT… what about these three passages often used in favour of Christian involvement in a just war?
  14. 14. Luke 22 - 35Then Jesus asked them,“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36 He said to them,“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written:‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said,“See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.
  15. 15. Luke 22 - 35Then Jesus asked them,“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36 He said to them,“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written:‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said,“See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. Does Jesus support the use of violence? What of Luke 22:51? Does quoting Isa 53:12 mean Jesus was doing it to fulfil OT prophecy, and so the Romans might view him as a revolutionary?
  16. 16. Romans 13 - Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
  17. 17. Romans 13 - Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. Is Paul (God) saying to submit and do whatever ungodly authorities command you to? Is Paul saying that God is in charge - he is sovereign - and so we need to live our lives in obedience remembering that fact? Often in the OT we see God using evil powers to accomplish his will - but HE is still in charge, and ultimately he will judge them for what they do.
  18. 18. Mark 11 - 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said,“Is it not written:‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
  19. 19. What about the Old Testament? - full of wars and violence - often commanded by God - doesn't that mean we can fight for what we believe in?
  20. 20. 1. In the OT Israel was a theocracy - state ruled by God, religion and state were one under the rulership of God. Nowadays there is no “Christian” country 2. Much OT war is about the land God had promised to the Israelites - no such promise exists for the widespread people of God in the NT
  21. 21. 3. The Bible reveals a story of salvation that culminates in Jesus - at times war is commanded by God but the ultimate goal is peace, the OT shows the prophets pointing to Jesus and aiming for eventual peace (Micah 4:3)
  22. 22. “Violence was allowed and even commanded in the Old Testament, as was polygamy, divorce, slavery, stoning of children, and killing people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. But this was not the goal of redemptive history; rather, it was part of God’s dynamic (not static) story of salvation, which climaxes in Jesus who bore a plowshare and not a sword. Jesus inaugurated that promised period of peace and healing, and therefore violence is allowed in the OldTestament but not in the New.” Preston Sprinkle
  23. 23. Genesis 9 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
  24. 24. We have looked very briefly what the NT says about violence. Preston Sprinkle (who argues strongly for a pacifist approach) poses the question, “What do I do if someone is pointing a gun at my family and threatening their lives, do I shoot them?” What would you do - why?
  25. 25. We have looked very briefly what the NT says about violence. Preston Sprinkle (who argues strongly for a pacifist approach) poses the question, “What do I do if someone is pointing a gun at my family and threatening their lives, do I shoot them?” What would you do - why? “I would shoot them” Why?
  26. 26. Two different decisions have to be faced - both are, according to Sprinkle, evil
  27. 27. Two different decisions have to be faced - both are, according to Sprinkle, evil - shooting the man is preemptive violence, taking life, not loving him, he might go to hell
  28. 28. Two different decisions have to be faced - both are, according to Sprinkle, evil - shooting the man is preemptive violence, taking life, not loving him, he might go to hell - not shooting him means not loving his family, not protecting his own household
  29. 29. Two different decisions have to be faced - both are, according to Sprinkle, evil - shooting the man is preemptive violence, taking life, not loving him, he might go to hell - not shooting him means not loving his family, not protecting his own household Sprinkle says he is choosing the lesser of two evils (this is called graded absolutism which is based on the idea of higher and lower laws - therefore we obey the higher law here whilst disobeying the lower)
  30. 30. Preston Sprinkle summarises the following 4 Christian positions on violence and warfare: ! View 1: Pacifism (non-resistance). This view says that Christians should not kill people, but they can join the military (or police force, etc.) as long as they serve as non- combatants (psychologist, medical doctor, etc.)
  31. 31. View 2: Pacifism (total non-participation). Christians should not join the military or any other institution that endorses and participates in violence.
  32. 32. View 3: Just War. Christians can participate in a war that is waged on a “just” basis.The seven-fold criteria for a “just” war include: (1) Just cause, (2) Just intention, (3) Last resort, (4) Formal declaration, (5) Limited objectives, (6) Proportionate means, (7) Noncombatant immunity.
  33. 33. View 4: Self-defence and Justice. This view focuses on the individual’s encounter with evil, as opposed to his/her participation in national warfare.The view says that a Christian may use violence when defending oneself against evil (i.e. being attacked in a dark alley, etc.) or to achieve justice for someone being oppressed (e.g., executing Hitler).
  34. 34. Christian perspectives on war Adapted from Freiburg, Ethics for a Brave NewWorld
  35. 35. Traditionally Christians have held two positions regarding war: - Pacifism (no wars are just) - Just war (some wars are demonstrably just) Freiburg suggests that such thinking might need to change in the light of the new nature of war and especially the “war on terror.” He asks,
  36. 36. Traditionally Christians have held two positions regarding war: - Pacifism (no wars are just) - Just war (some wars are demonstrably just) Freiburg suggests that such thinking might need to change in the light of the new nature of war and especially the “war on terror.” He asks, Ajmal Kasab was hanged on 21 November 2012 at 7:30 a.m
  37. 37. 1.What is a just cause for going to war?
  38. 38. 1.What is a just cause for going to war? 2. Can anyone (including govt officials) know that a war is just until it is well under way or perhaps even ended?
  39. 39. 1.What is a just cause for going to war? 2. Can anyone (including govt officials) know that a war is just until it is well under way or perhaps even ended? 3. Is it morally right for a nation to make a pre-emptive strike on another that hasn't attacked the nation that starts the war?
  40. 40. 4.What if the nation attacked has the ability to make nuclear weapons (regardless of whether it has done so), is that just cause for a pre- emptive strike?
  41. 41. 4.What if the nation attacked has the ability to make nuclear weapons (regardless of whether it has done so), is that just cause for a pre- emptive strike? 5. Decisions to go to war are often based on intelligence reports.What if these reports prove to be wrong?
  42. 42. 4.What if the nation attacked has the ability to make nuclear weapons (regardless of whether it has done so), is that just cause for a pre- emptive strike? 5. Decisions to go to war are often based on intelligence reports.What if these reports prove to be wrong? 6. How does a country attack terrorism when there is no terrorist state per se to hold accountable for acts of terror?
  43. 43. Freiburg quotes Laurie Calhoun who suggests we need to know about certain things in approaching war: - the need to distinguish between moral absolutism (moral principles exist regardless of time, place and culture) and moral relativism (moral rules depend on the culture or context) Calhoun suggests that only if you are an absolutist can you argue about the justness/injustice of a war
  44. 44. Calhoun also distinguishes between realists and idealists, - realists believe that in the light of human nature war cannot be avoided (so it is like floods, droughts, earthquakes = cannot be avoided) - relativists here believe that “anything goes” - absolutists here believe that moral rules can be applied in assessing the individual acts not the whole war
  45. 45. - idealists believe that wars can be evaluated morally, so we can have just and unjust wars - here relativists would assess the morality of a war (though at their position is relative agreement might be hard to find) - absolutists here would be able to argue whether a war was just or not and so this leads to pacifism or just war positions
  46. 46. We have said traditionally Christians have favoured two positions regarding war - pacifism and just war. Now we shall give greater definition to these and discuss them.
  47. 47. What is pacifism? “A pacifist is someone who against killing and hence against war” Freiburg However pacifism comes in a number of different forms of which we shall note four.
  48. 48. 1. Universal pacifism Killing or violence is always wrong. Violence of any kind is rejected - personal, national, international. Killing can never be justified - Gandhi, Schweitzer,Tolstoy
  49. 49. 2. Christian pacifism These people distinguish Christian believers from unbelievers. Christians are never allowed to use killing or violence but non-Christians may justly resort to killing in certain instances - Herman Hoyt who calls it nonresistance
  50. 50. 3. Private pacifism Least common view - personal violence is always wrong but a nation may at times be justified in using force in a just war - Augustine
  51. 51. 4. Antiwar pacifism Personal violence may be justified in some instances in defence of one’s rights, but war is never morally justified. Individuals may defend their rights by using violence but nations cannot ever do so.
  52. 52. Arguments for pacifism Here we need to consider the idea of whether war, and participation in it, are ever morally obligatory or acceptable for Christians.
  53. 53. Non-biblical arguments for pacifism 1. Historically many Christians have been pacifists - they did not serve in the Roman army until Christianity was legalised by Constantine - possibly because they might have been asked to do morally wrong things (persecuting civilians, stealing, worshipping the emperor)
  54. 54. 2. Some Christians were pacifists as life is sacred - are we allowed to kill others, to kill animals or plants? 3. Killing is immoral as all humans have a right to life - therefore taking life is always wrong (even if killing is thought to bring about a good result.
  55. 55. 4. Kant put forth the idea that a mans life and conduct should be a moral example - therefore we cannot kill as the example is bad 5.The example / philosophy of Gandhi (no need to tell Indians about this!)
  56. 56. Biblical arguments for pacifism 1. Scripture leads us upwards towards Jesus as revealed in the NT - therefore the words therein should hold most power in our lives, primarily we do what jesus taught: Matt 5:9, Matt 26:52, Luke 6:27-36, John 18:36 Christian pacifists say these show Christians should not be involved in war
  57. 57. 2. Matt 5: 38-48 This is not simply an attitude - but a rule of life for the actions of all Christians 3. In considering the OT we need to somehow put ourselves in the position described and ask what god was leading his people from. In doing that we can see a total perspective on war and violence (which is that God leads his people away from them as well as false worship, impurity etc.)
  58. 58. 4.A Christian’s citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. First loyalty to Christ and his kingdom - which crosses national and international boundaries and therefore excludes a Christian from nationalism! After that we see our obligation to govts etc.We MUST obey God and then submit to authorities (which are not always right!) We must add to this is the possibility of killing a fellow believer in war!
  59. 59. 5.The ethical implications of the cross. If Christ, our Lord, Saviour and example, suffered in that way what does it teach us about how to face injustice, suffering, lies etc.? And if Christ died that all might know life - what right do we have to take life?
  60. 60. 6. Some argue that most wars are about the protection of property. Jesus warned about valuing possessions too highly - so a Christian should use possessions to help people not to defend at the expense of other peoples lives
  61. 61. Objections to pacifism The historical idea of Christian being pacifists stretches back to the Roman Empire when a compromise of worship (emperor / false gods) and reducing visibility (and therefore evening potential persecution) would have conflicted with faith.There is nothing in the Bible which seems to support Christians not enrolling in the army
  62. 62. The historical idea of Christian being pacifists stretches back to the Roman Empire when a compromise of worship (emperor / false gods) and reducing visibility (and therefore evening potential persecution) would have conflicted with faith.There is nothing in the Bible which seems to support Christians not enrolling in the army Objections to non-biblical arguments for pacifism
  63. 63. Sacredness of life - surely if life is sacred taking it is immoral? However some question if this is only when the killing is unnecessary - does that mean that killing can at times be necessary (in the army for example)? Does the principle that life is sacred mean that nothing should ever be killed (pacifists), or does it require us to preserve life as much as possible (non-pacifists)?
  64. 64. The immorality of killing - if we have a right (God- given) to life then surely there is a right to defend that life? So what if you are attacked - surely you are permitted to defend your life, even if that might mean killing the other person whilst acting in self defence?
  65. 65. The moral example argument - “The world would be a better place if everyone were a pacifist” We might agree - but does that make it a moral imperative to be a pacifist? Would “Use violence only in self defence” be as valid a command? Part of the difficulty here is that we live in a sinful world - the ideal might be one of the commands, but in reality we have to deal with violence of many kinds.
  66. 66. Can we force obedience to the Bible upon atheists, Jews or Muslims? 1. Would biblical pacifism here be universalizable? However if the Bible is God’s Word to us their disobedience is at their own peril.The question is, in effect, “What does God expect of us?” Objections to biblical arguments for pacifism
  67. 67. 2.What about the OT teaching on war? God commands Israel to go to war - and fights on their side.The land is taken through a series of wars to dispossess other peoples. But, maybe the Israelites were mistaken and God had not told them to fight, or, the OT and NT are different eras and God works differently in each of them, or, Israel was under the dispensation of law and the church is under grace
  68. 68. The activity of Israel at war in the OT raises an important question: How do the OT and NT relate on ethical matters? Is there continuity or discontinuity? Freiburg suggests that, “Whatever is binding in the OT continues to apply in the NT era, unless the NT either explicitly or implicitly abrogates (does away with) it.” In relation to war we then have to ask what the NT teaches , is it prohibited (totally or in part), or is it permitted (maybe only in some cases)?
  69. 69. 3. So what of Jesus and the NT teaching on war? - in reading the Sermon on the Mount is there a difference in reading it with regard to private and public duty? As an individual I might turn the other cheek when attacked. If I have a public office I have a responsibility to protect and defend the people, possibly by using force. What of my family, don’t I have a responsibility to defend them if they are attacked?
  70. 70. - can pacifists suggest that we take the Sermon on the Mount literally? - have you plucked you eye out recently Matt 5:29,30? - do you hate your relatives Lk 14:26? - what of Jesus challenging the legitimacy of his attack in Jn 18:22,23? (and Paul in Acts 23:1-5)
  71. 71. 4. Does being a citizen of the KOG rule out Christians acting in war? We are also in this world - are the two mutually exclusive? If God allows the state to use force when reasonable, surely Christians should take part in this as required? We have both benefits and responsibilities in the world. Is the logical consequence here that we would have to withdraw from all involvement with our govt.?
  72. 72. 5. Does the ethical implications of the cross mean as Christians we cannot fight? - the cross shows Gods patience in facing unjust suffering, it reveals mercy - it also shows God’s righteousness and justice - sin must be punished! To love your enemies does not mean you do not exercise civil justice - a principle of love is found in both OT and NT teaching (and laws)
  73. 73. 6. What of war setting Christians against Christians in favour of national loyalty? Freiburg argues that a Christian would only fight on one side of a “just war” for the other side would obviously be unjust. But, what of nationalism which does blinker Christian people to the truth of what is just?

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