Christian Enthusiasm for War

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

I
have been surprised that a number of well-known Christian prophetic
voices are supporting war with Iraq. I am not a pacifist and I believe
there are situations where a nation is justified in going to war
to defend its people against an attack. However, these situations
have always been very rare and this is not one of them. Very few
wars have ever met the biblical criteria that justify war (these
are explained in "Defence
and War"
). In the modern world, the consequences of war
are so terrible that very few wars can ever be justified. Therefore,
I am surprised at the current enthusiasm for war among Christians.

The
reasons for supporting the war are given in the following quotations.

The
cup of judgment is full of Saddam Hussein…. The battle is about
bringing down the strongman of Islam and breaking open the Middle
East. The spirit of Allah is working to form an Arab coalition
to resist in the battle. God will humiliate the spirit over
Islam (Ps 83:16) (Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders).

The
lawlessness that is growing throughout the world would result
in such chaos and destruction that things would be much worse
if the United States does not become more assertive in its leadership.
Now there are also major threats to us that in the United States
that must be found and dealt with (Rick Joyner).

The
record is clear, the actions of Saddam Hussein are cruel, evasive
and ungodly. His actions cannot go unchecked (Bob Jones and
Paul Keith Davis).

Removing
Saddam Hussein is necessary – peacefully I hope, but if not,
then by military means. In order to fight terrorism, we must
cut off terrorists' supplies and support. And Saddam Hussein
represents both. So war against Saddam is self-defense (Chuck
Colsen).

These
statements seem to be a variation on one theme: Saddam Hussein is
evil.

  • He is
    supporting and supplying terrorism
  • He has
    weapons of mass destruction
  • He is
    willing to use them against other nations
  • He is
    oppressing the people of Iraq.

There
is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is an evil man, but these prophetic
voices all go a step further and argue that because Saddam Hussein
is evil, war to overthrow him is justified. They seem to believe
that the United States should attack Iraq to overthrow evil. The
problem with this argument is that evil is normal in the world until
the gospel
is victorious
. The existence of evil is never in itself a justification
for war. If it were, Christians would be permanently engaged in
warfare all over the world.

Spiritual
Reality

I
could understand unbelievers wanting to use military force to destroy
evil. They fear evil and the only weapons they have to fight evil
are military, but we have a clearer understanding of the nature
of evil. Christians know that the real source of evil is not Saddam
Hussein, but the spiritual forces that are working through him.

For
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the
rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this
dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly
realms (Eph 6:12).

Our
real struggle is not against evil men in positions of power, but
against the spiritual powers working through them. The enemy is
not Saddam Hussein, but the evil spiritual powers behind him. The
same spiritual forces that wrestled with Daniel are now at work
in Iraq.

Military
force cannot deal with evil in Iraq, because it is unable to deal
with these spiritual powers. Even if an invasion is successful and
Saddam Hussein is deposed, the same spiritual forces will remain
in control of the nation. The United States may be able conquer
Iraq with overwhelming military force, but it will not be able change
the spiritual atmosphere. War cannot remove evil from Iraq. This
is why I am surprised at Christians making the case for war against
Iraq.

We
should never wish the horror and devastation of war on any people.
The brutality of modern warfare and the pain of defeat often leaves
a nation even more vulnerable to evil. Overthrowing Saddam may even
result in even worse evil taking hold of the nation.

Christians
praying in the West can influence the spiritual forces working in
Iraq, but they do not have the spiritual authority to remove them.
There will always be people with spiritual authority in Iraq inviting
them back. Real change will only come, when people in Iraq with
spiritual authority choose to stand in the power of the Holy Spirit
against these evil spiritual forces and force them out of the nation.

Evil

Although
evil often seems to be victorious in the world, God has prepared
a solution. Evil came into the world through sin. Human sin allowed
the spiritual forces of evil to go to work in the world. As a result,
evil rulers like Saddam Hussein have been common throughout history.
The purpose of the cross was to destroy the powers of evil (Col
1:13). Therefore the best way to deal with evil is to advance the
great commission.

Therefore
go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am
with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:19).

As
the nations receive the gospel and are taught to obey Jesus, they
will bind the evil spiritual powers and increase the influence of
the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that the gospel will be successful,
the Kingdom
of God
will grow throughout the earth and evil will be greatly
constrained.

I
suspect that part of the reason that Christians are so enthusiastic
about this war is that they no longer believe in the power of the
gospel and the Holy Spirit to overcome evil. Some of the strongest
support for war comes from the “end-times industry”. It teaches
that, despite the gospel, the power of evil will increase as history
progresses, and will only be overcome when Jesus returns to conquer
the world using violent force (a rod of iron). This idea of Jesus
forcing people to submit to his authority is not only a distortion
of the gospel, but has a dangerous consequence. If God can only
overcome evil using brute force, then there is some justification
for the United States using force to overcome evil in this age.
Thankfully, this idea is false.

Christian
Realism

Knowing
that evil will continue in the world, until this gospel task is
completed, Christians should not be naive about it. The civil government
has the “power of the sword” to place a restraint on evil (Rom 13:1–6).
It can resist evil by punishing individuals who commit crimes. The
civil government can sometimes use military force to resist an attack
by an evil nation. Terrorist attacks can be resisted by all lawful
means available to the civil government. Political leaders have
responsibility to defend their nation from evil attack.

However,
Christians should also be realistic about evil. The civil government
cannot provide total protection for it citizens. It cannot eliminate
all crime or violence. A nation will sometimes face attack from
an evil nation that it is unable to resist. Evil will sometimes
spill over from other nations and affect those that do not deserve
it. Even nations with vastly superior military resources will sometimes
be vulnerable to the threats of terrorists. The civil government
should do everything possible to keep terrorists from entering their
nation, but they will not be able to eliminate every terrorist in
the world, or conquer every nation that supports terrorism. The
civil government should be vigilant, but it will not be able to
eliminate the threat of evil until the gospel of Jesus has been
effective throughout the world. Nations should do what is lawful
to protect their citizens, and then trust the rest to God.

The
United Nations

Christians
should also be realistic about the United Nations. This human organisation
cannot eliminate evil from the world. It has no spiritual authority,
so is very limited in what it can achieve. The United Nations is
just a committee of political leaders that is never united. Some
are good, some are bad, and a few are evil. The decisions of its
various meetings are limited to the wisdom of these men and women.
They have always been a mixture; some good, some evil, but mostly
bad. The United Nations has sometime provided peace-keeping forces
to control volatile situations. It has sometimes provided a forum
for nations to talk and resolve their differences, but is has rarely
been able to resolve the underlying (often spiritual) differences
between nations. It has done very little to restrain evil.

The
United Nations does not have the moral authority to decide between
good an evil. Therefore, I have also been surprised at the number
of Christians who assume that war is justified, if it is authorised
by the United Nations. This human organisation does not have the
moral authority to decide that a war is justified. Assigning authority
to decide between good and evil to a human organisation is a dangerous
mistake.

Fear

Christians
believe that evil will be overcome by the power of the gospel. In
the meantime, we should not fear evil. Although God has promised
to protect his people through evil times, this does not guarantee
that evil things will not happen to good people. Jesus’ death on
the cross proves that good people can sometime perish at the hand
of evil men. However, the worst that evil men can do to us is death;
and for those in Christ, death is victory. Having this hope, we
do not need to fear evil. As the shepherd's Psalm says,

Even
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

March
8, 2003

Ron
McKenzie [send him mail]
is an economist in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is also a Presbyterian
minister.


     

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare