Samir Paul, Harvard
Let us reframe the question: Do we take the hope of Christ seriously enough actually to trust in it?
Nonviolence is a consequence of hearing the glad tidings of the Gospel. It follows from obedience to the messiah who would rather die than take up the sword of revolutionary violence, the God who does not wish for us to pursue temporal peace and justice in the way of Pharoah.
We reject the modernist compromise of Schliermacher and Niebuhr, and we will not accept a sanitized “realist” Christianity that has been run through the meat-grinder to be made palatable to the liberal democratic establishment. Karl Barth initiates this project of liberating God-talk: He puts forth a totalizing Christian vision of how the universe is and ought to be, wresting lordship from convenience and returning it to Christ Jesus. And his student, the Mennonite John Howard Yoder, finishes the fight, demanding that the Church recognize Jesus as Lord of not just our hearts, but our politics, as well.
We must believe so fiercely in this lordship and in the truth of the Gospel – indeed, to the exclusion of many things that others believe – that we adopt nonviolence in part to protect the God-breathcd lives of those who disagree with us. But even more, we must reject violence to protect ourselves from doing as sinners do: killing. We are violent creatures; avowing nonviolence acknowledges our impulse to dominate the weak and meets it head-on. A commitment to peace frees us to claim the truth of the Gospel without becoming Caesar.
Most of all, we must choose nonviolence because we bear witness to a peace that is yet to come, and so we remain faithful to that hope even as we work toward what should be right now. Active nonviolence is how we steadfastly live in anticipation of the Kingdom, already knowing how the story ends: Love wins. Such an ethic trusts in God and affirms our commitment neither to give up nor to idolize our own agency in the drama of history. And in the face of the ultimate sacrifice, as my brother says, “Christians who trust in the Prince of Peace must pray that they will be faithful when the time conics for them to bear witness to the power of God rather than to the power of violence.” Some things are worth dying for – even if for once we actually do have to turn the other cheek.
Samir Paul ’10, Editor-in-Chief of The Harvard Ichthus, is a senior computer science concentrator in Mather House.
Charles Clark, Dartmouth
The question, “When should Christians go to war?” suggests two principal readings. The first reading is, “When support a war politically?” and the second is, “When should Christians fight as soldiers?” Just War Theory, pioneered by Augustine and Aquinas, is primarily concerned with the former, that is, with the actions of nations in forming and executing policies regarding the use of force. One facet of Just War Theory is a set of principles for evaluating the justice of a nation’s entrance into war. These principles mandate that a nation going to war must possess just cause, proper authority, right intention and reasonable hope for success. I accept these principles on the grounds that they discourage self-serving, unnecessarily violent conflicts, which are contrary to the Christian’s responsibility to cultivate peace, while allowing Christians to support wars that seek to address wrongs committed against themselves and others with the measured use of force, which is in keeping with a Christian’s responsibility to enact and defend justice. Moreover Just War Theory allows cooperation on war policy between Christians and non-Christians, which is evidenced by its influence on the United Nations Charter. Christians are responsible for exercising their political rights and praying for those in authority in order that peace may be disrupted only when necessary to establish justice.
As to when individuals should participate in a war directly the New Testament presents Cornelius, a Roman centurion who becomes a Christian. Centurions were career military men with years of experience in battle. Even prior to his conversion, Cornelius is described as “righteous,” and he is not commanded to leave the military in order to follow Christ. So his occupation excludes neither righteousness nor Christian discipleship. And in 2 Timothy 2, Paul compares Timothy’s role as a servant of the Gospel to that of a soldier who dutifully serves his commanding officer. My conclusion from these passages is that the profession of a soldier is as moral or immoral as the actions of the individual soldier in the performance of his duty, which could be said for any profession. Put another way, the question of when Christians should become soldiers is little different from the question of when Christians should become doctors, lawyers, or bankers.
Charles Clark ’11, Editor-in-Chief of the Dartmouth Apologia, is a Dartmouth junior studying Literary Theory and Classical Archaeology.
Jinju Pottenger, Princeton
Murder is strongly condemned in the Bible, from the very first murder of Abel by Cain up through the Ten Commandments and countless times in the New Testament. However, does war fall under the prohibition of murder? The ancient Israelites, under God’s direction, waged wars that offend the secular reader who rejects God’s sovereignty over all life. But elsewhere the Bible comes down strongly on the side of peace, from the Psalms to the Benedictions. In fact, it appears that Ecclesiastes 3:8b, “There is a time for war, and a time for peace,” sums up our relationship with war: Sometimes, war is God’s will and waging it is part of His greater purpose and plan.
However, war as it is fought today could not be fought for purposes further from those of God. Wars of genocide and greed are clearly sinful. Wars that are fought brutally, with the maximization of suffering, are also not condoned. Jus ad bellum and jus in bello both matter.
I would go so far as to say that all wars waged in a modem nation-state system are against God’s will, and ones in which Christians should not participate. The state primarily protects its own interests, which is in radical contrast to God’s call to his children – namely, to act oppositely to our own interests for His sake. Although war is permissible when directly led by God, war for the sake of national security is the same as war for the sake of territorial expansion or other illegitimate reasons. War as nation-states wage it today is sin.
By way of analogy, a nation-state going to war is like an individual whose job requires murder. Both the state and the individual are made more secure by their actions: the former against state failure by warring with threats; the latter against poverty. However, there are other, less sinful options for the individual seeking provision and for the state seeking security.
While war may be permissible for Christians under certain circumstances, in the modern age, it is not so because of the tension between God’s command that we love our enemies and the state’s command that we kill them for the sake of national security. Human life is God-given and God-breathed and can only be taken at His command and without error – namely, not through the system we have now.
Jinju Pottenger ’10 of Princeton’s Revisions, is a senior at the Woodrow Wilson School in Mathey College.
Hans Anderson, Yale
There is a war which we Christians must wage always and in all places: Jesus announced, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34; cf. Luke 12:51), while Paul clarified, “We do not wage war as the world does; the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (II Corinthians 10:3-4). Christians wage the war of the Spirit, the war against sin and evil (cf. Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 2:11). This war is not one from which Christians may choose to abstain, for when a Christian gives her life to Christ, the fallen world declares war upon her (cf. Matthew 24:9; John 15:18). Nor can Christians expect this war to cease (cf. II Corinthians 6:14-16) until darkness is at last dispelled and all things are made new in Christ.
Precisely because Christians wage war against the very kingdom of darkness binding up the world, the perfect Christian life excludes war either of the world or for the world. Jesus blessed the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), but He did not bless the warriors. Why? “My kingdom is not of this world,” He said; “if it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest” (John 18:36). When Peter cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus, Jesus rebuked him and healed the victim (inter alia, Luke 22:50-51). If Christ would not permit Peter to fight in His own righteous defense, how could we ever presume to fight in defense of any worldly cause? Jesus healed the servant’s ear to show Christians our proper place vis-à-vis worldly war: We are to minister to the victims of violence rather than to combat even unjust violence with our own.
Of course, certain Christians hold a doctrine of “just war”, as if murder ceased to be sin whenever certain conditions are met. This doctrine is an invention foreign to the faith of the apostles, patristic writers (e.g. John Chrysostom, “On The Priesthood”), and early martyrs (cf. Acts 7:59-60, 14:19-22). There is one condition alone which supersedes God’s interdiction against murder: God’s extraordinary authorization. Otherwise, Christ calls us to peace. More precisely, He calls us to spiritual war always and in all places against the very temptation which would draw us into worldly war.
Hans Anderson ’10, former Executive Editor of The Yale Logos, is a senior Ethics, Politics, and Economics major in Saybrook College.