the Bible and the State
P. Andrew Sandlin
the Jehovah God is inherently opposed to all war is a pacifist fiction.
Israel's wars of extermination outlined vividly in the Old Testament
refute the suggestion that God is opposed to war at all times and
under all conditions. It is essential, however, to understand the
objective of and context within which those wars were to be waged.
In a unique dispensation, God granted Israel the land of Canaan.
The tribes and nations occupying it at the time were blatantly heathen,
and their sins were particularly repellant (Dt. 9:1-5). Israel as
God's covenant people were called to expel these nations from a
land rightfully Israel's own. In essence, they were defending their
and the State
This is a key element in the Biblical justification for war, and
it relates directly to the Biblical role of the state. According
to the Bible, the state is a legitimate institution, but its scope
is severely limited. In Romans 13, St. Paul makes clear that it
exists to punish external evildoers. By what standard? By the standard
of God's written law. In large measure, this reduces to a defense
of what the early Americans considered that great trio of "rights,"
life, liberty, and property. It employs the force of coercion to
protect against murder, rape, pillage, kidnapping, and so forth.
It does not exist to redistribute wealth. It does not exist to furnish
education. It does not exist to guarantee medical and retirement
benefits or any "social security." In fact, according to the Bible,
the state is a greatly decentralized institution, growing out of
the family (Dt. 1:13-17). Local magistrates are charged with "keeping
the peace," and families authorize their role. In modern terms,
we may say that the strongest politician in the country should be
your local sheriff. His sole job is to suppress external evildoing defined according to God's law.
from Foreign Invasion
But if he is called to protect life, liberty, and property, he must
protect it not only against domestic offenders, but also alien offenders foreign invasion. The Biblical state protects against tyranny
from within (crime) and tyranny from without (invasion). There is
no Biblical justification for war except to protect against tyranny
from without invasion. This means, in modern terms, that the state
must be a "dove" when contemplating the invasion of any other nation's
borders and a "hawk" when protecting its own border.
Tyranny of the "Nation-State"
fundamental flaw of almost all modern ideas of war is that they
are undergirded by a fallacious view of the state. Today the state
is almost always seen in terms of the "nation-state." It is a mammoth,
maternalistic entity depicting itself in virtual organic terms (this
began in earnest during the European nationalism of the nineteenth
century). In blatant violation of God's law, the modern state extorts
an excess of property from its citizens in the form of taxation,
conscripts its citizens to fight illegitimate wars, and employs
coercion to guarantee its own bloated bureaucracy (1 Sam. 8). The
modern state is really nothing more than a legalized cartel. These
legalized cartels whether fascist, communist, Nazi, or Western
"democratic" have developed a habit of bullying their wishes on
other nations. This is the cause of the vast majority of wars in
human history, though in the last 200 years, this cause has been
dressed up by appeal to certain ideologies, "defending human rights,"
"preventing ethnic cleansing," and so on. Hitler's totalitarian
perversion was more straightforward we Aryan racists need more
land. Stalin's justification for his totalitarian perversion was
more high-sounding though no less horrifying: we must free the world's
workers from capitalistic exploitation. Hitler and Stalin were both
monsters at the head of legalized cartels, though Stalin was by
far the more destructive of the two. Western democrats more readily
accept justification for murder under the guise of protection against
capitalist exploitation than murder under the guise of protection
against polluting the master race's gene pool. Both are godless
and abhorrent, though Western democrats are more inclined to accept
godlessness and abhorrence when it salves their envy and hatred
for the accumulation of property, rather than their envy and hatred
of some other race. The recent American wars against Iraq and Serbia
are not materially different from Hitler's invasion of Poland and
Stalin's invasion of Hungary. All three employed the power of coercion of a legalized cartel to impose its will on another nation.
Both Saddam Hussan and Slobodan Milosevic are in fact little tin-pot
dictators who routinely deprive their citizens of life, liberty,
and property as all legalized cartels tend to do. But the American
bombing missions did not solve this problem it only deprived many
more people of life, liberty, and property.
Godless, totalitarian regimes like those in Islamic nations, Iraq,
and communist China can be gradually overcome by the methods Christians
employed in overcoming the godless totalitarian regime known as
the Roman Empire self-government, personal godliness, covenant
faithfulness, and patient perseverance under the lash of persecution.
The Bible does not permit bombing missions, legalized murder, and
the incineration of innocent civilians as an instrument to overturn
the tyranny of evil regimes.
This general Christian approach toward war is the heritage of America's
Old Right (conservatives). Murray Rothbard notes:
Old Right applied its aversion to [civil] government to foreign
policy as well as domestic. It held the increasing interventions
of the American government in the affairs of other nations to be
illegitimate, and even imperialist, intrusions that benefited neither
the American people nor the world as a whole."
pre-World War II conservatives were known as "isolationists" (really
they should have been called "non-interventionists"), for, as Rothbard
observes, they feared both the domestic and foreign intrusions of
civil government. Most of today's conservatives have abandoned their
great Christian heritage, and have adopted the rabid military internationalism
of William F. Buckley, National Review, George W. Bush, Bob
Dole, John McCain, and other establishment Republicans. All these
have joined the international militarists on the Left ( i.e., Bill
Clinton, Al Gore, and Bill Bradley) and the great collaboration
of America's legalized military cartel. Power tends to corrupt,
asserted Lord Acton, that great defender of Christian liberty, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power in the hands of a legalized
cartel is dangerous indeed particularly when it is devoted to
murder, pillage, and holocaust in foreign nations.
only possible solution is a return to Biblical Christianity and
its program of overcoming sin by peaceful change: the glorious gospel
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, of self-government, and of
godly families and churches and a free market undergirded by moral
P. Andrew Sandlin is Executive Vice President of the Chalcedon
Foundation [www.chalcedon.edu]. He is the author of Christianity:
Bulwark of Liberty and several other works.