1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Representative Biblical references to "war"
A. Old Testament - over 200 references
- "The Lord will have war against Amalek from generation
- "a 1000 from all the tribes of Israel you shall send to
- "a time for war, and a time for peace"
- "Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never
again will they learn war."
- "...never again will they train for war"
B. New Testament - 18 references; mostly
- "a different law in the members of my body, waging war
against the law of
10:3 - "we do not wage war according to the flesh"
- "men of faith...who became mighty in war"
- "source of your pleasures wage war in your members"
2:11 - "fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul"
- "I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth"
- "there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging
war with the dragon..."
C. Additional references to "fighting"
and "violence" could be considered.
II. Defining "war" and its causes
A. Definition of "war"
1. A hostile
conflict between two or more nations, states, communities or
force, violence, or armed confrontation.
conflicts have been a constant feature of human history.
of willingness and preparedness for war, for the existence and
survival of a
B. Causes of "war"
covetous, greedy desire for gain
fear of injury or loss
of glory, reputation, pride, ambition
for power, dominion, supremacy
of hatred, bigotry, revenge, extermination
zeal, ideological quest
III. "War" and the Old Testament (Covenant)
A. Nation of Israel
by warfare, defeating and expelling former residents of the land
on basis of:
Promise of God - cf. Gen. 12, 15,18
Retributive justice of God on Canaanites - cf. Judges 1:1-4;
I Sam. 15:2
as means to maintain continuity and security of nation.
B. God identified as leader of Israel
to be theocratic head and king of Israel - cf. Exod. 15:18; Ps.
as participating in their historical experiences, including war
15:3 - "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name"
24:8 - "Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty
3:9,10 - "prepare a war; let the soldiers draw near. Beat
your plowshares into swords,
your pruning hooks into spears..."
31:5 - "Lord of hosts" (armies) - more than 200 times
C. Theological perspective of old covenant
is not a physical, blood-thirsty, war-mongering God
covenant narrative is a pictorial, prefiguring in physical history
of God's spiritual
for His people
Physical warfare is pictorial portrayal of spiritual warfare
of good conquering evil
of God defeating Satan
War regarded as necessary evil to achieve salvation of God for
restoration of Israel couched in apocalyptic, figurative language
of war -
Messianic deliverer to defeat Satanic forces
Prophetic reference to a new covenant
promised covenant - cf. Jere. 31:31-34
internal, spiritual realities - cf. Heb. 8:10-12; 10:16
peaceful community - cf. Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3
Messianic "Prince of Peace" - cf. Isa. 9:6
IV. "War" and the New Testament (Covenant)
A. Jesus comes as fulfillment of God's
Messianic deliverer - the Christ - Matt. 16:16-21
message is that of a radically different "kingdom"
Unlike old covenant picture of physical kingdom
Not nationalistic - I Pet. 2:9
Not militaristic - Jn. 18:36
Not ethnic or racialistic - Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:13-16
Christocentric Lordship of Christ
Christ reigns - Lk 1:33
Christians reign in life through Him - Rom. 5:17,21
defeated forces of evil in ultimate cosmic conflict
Did so as recipient of violence, rather than in exercise of violence
- cf. I Pet. 2:21-23
Decisively destroyed diabolic reign, once and for all - Jn. 12:31,32;
19:30; I Jn. 3:8
covenant relationship with God is established
Internal realities of God's character - Heb. 8:10; 10:16
Lord of peace at work in Christians - II Thess. 3:16
constitutes new Israel, people of God - Gal. 6:16; I Pet. 2:9,10
To be community of peace; new Jerusalem - Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22;
To be peacemakers - Matt. 5:9
B. Conflict and warfare terminology in
the New Testament
one (1) definite reference to physical war in New Testament:
11:33,34 - "those who by faith conquered kingdoms, escaped
the edge of the sword,
mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight"
2. No admonitions
for Christian involvement in physical battle or war in the New
3. No direct
statements that war is categorically sinful, or that Christian
involvement in war
terminology in N.T. is predominantly metaphorical and figurative.
Christ's battle with and defeat of evil powers - cf. Col. 2:15;
Eph. 4:8; Rev. 12:7-9
Christian's engagement in spiritual and behavioral conflict
psychological - Rom. 7:23; James 4:1; I Pet. 2:11
world-system - Eph. 6:10-20; I Tim. 1:18; 6:12; II Tim. 4:7
V. History of the Church's attitude toward "war"
A. Opposition to involvement in war
of early church fathers indicated that Christians should not
participate in war.
2. No record
of Christians participating in military prior to 174 A.D.
323 A.D. almost all Christian literature repudiates involvement
in military service
war. Some allowed for non-combative roles.
soldiers were excluded from participation in the Lord's Supper
until they had
of their sin of shedding blood.
Constantine (323 A.D.) onwards, when Christianity became official
to war decline
Church history there have been varying kinds of pacifists
B. Acceptance of involvement in war
(197 A.D.) reported many Christians in the Roman army
of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.) indicated a soldier should "abide
in that calling
he was called" (cf. I Cor. 7:24)
Constantine (323 A.D.) objection to involvement in war declined
(339-397) - "one who does not defend another from injury
is as much at fault
- A war can be just when
appointed by God,
it repulses wanton attack,
seeks restoration of peace
Aquinas (1224-1274) - Three criteria for just war:
waged by legitimate governmental authority,
against an enemy who deserves punishment for wrongdoing,
with the motivation that good should prevail and evil be removed.
(1483-1546) defended the natural rights of nations to defend
noted that retributive justice is entrusted to civil governments
by God, for the
ought to be punished, and the righteous ought to intercede on
behalf of the wronged.
VI. Definition and types of pacifism
A. Definition of pacifism
means "opposition to war"
word "pacifism" derived from Latin pacificus,
which combines pax (peace)
ficus (pact). (Pacific Ocean named because it seemed mild
not to be confused with passivism (inactivity).
B. Types of pacifism
essential goodness of human nature should forestall such
education will instruct men to avoid ignorance of war
self-preservation dictates avoidance
non-violent social change - Gandhi
programming for social development of utopian society
"thou shalt not kill"
War is an absolute evil, wrong, sin
war is immoral
subjective convictions of conscientious objection
active ideological protest
it is in the self-interest of nations to avoid war
solidarity of nations should police their interactions
anti-establishmentarianism - oppose the war-machine
"make love, not war"
"we are just waiting for God to bring it to an end"
"not worth fighting for"
"ours is an enclave of peace"
"others can; we cannot"
"It's all an illusion"
"We are above all this worldly fuss"
Avoid the worldly system
practice the inward self-discipline of meditative peace
visualize peace; eliminate hate
church law disallows
evangelize others; don't kill them
imitation of Jesus
willingness to accept self-sacrifice and suffering
Christ in me does not seek war
Available to express His peaceful character and action
VII. Finding the balance between the physical and spiritual
realms. (cf. diagram)
A. Citizens of physical, earthly nation
God-ordained authority of human government - Rom. 13:3-6; Matt.
responsibility to obey government - Rom. 13:1-3,5,7; I Pet. 2:13-15
B. Citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20); spiritual
a militaristic, warring kingdom - Matt. 26:52; Jn. 18:36
(Matt. 5:9) who love their enemies (Matt. 5:43) and are non-retaliatory
right of conviction (Rom. 14:5) and conscience (Heb. 13:18)
C. Desiring to let the peace of Christ
control us (Col. 3:15), in order to leave peaceably with
men (Rom. 12:18).
D. Allowing the law of love (Rom. 13:10;
Gal. 5:14) to seek the highest good of all men.