Freedom Defender

Reporting on politics, society, principles, Christian interest and news that intrigues me.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Why Would a Christian Ever be Pro-War???

Some people may be surpirsed to know that the Bible itself says that there is a time to kill. That specific verse doesn't explain in detail when that is, just that there IS a time to kill. This verse is Ecclesiastes 3:3.

There is a time that the Bible says that condones killing. There is a specific case that is listed as the right thing to do. Deuteronomy 19:11-13 says: "But if a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him, assaults and kills him, and then flees to one of these cities, the elders of his town shall send for him, bring him back from the city, and hand him over to the avenger of blood to die. Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.". This is the law of the Lord. I believe that Christ has come to grant grace and that may overshadow Deuteronomy's command of "Show him no pity", even though it is commanded by God to kill without pity here. This is what God has stated as the right thing to do, for the good of the Nation (not necessarily the individual). This is also commanded in Exodus 21:12, "Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death" and Leviticus 24:17 "If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death".

Jesus himself commanded his disciples to pick up swords and follow him in Luke 22:36-38. Jesus told His disciples if they didn't have a sword, to buy one. When the disciples presented swords to Jesus, Jesus approved.

Some Soldiers came to seek Godly advice about the morality of their occupation. They were not told, not to be soldiers. They were not told to quit. They were not told to not make War. The Bible addresses their moral question with the answer: "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay" (from Luke 3:14). They are told not to take money from people by threat (Thou shalt not steal) or to accuse people falsely (Thou shalt not bear false witness) to beat the innocent. They are not told to not make War. In fact they are told simply after those reiterations of the aforementioned two commandments, to be happy with their pay (which may be translated as... Thou shalt not covet). If the soldiers were commanded to be happy with their pay, then soldiering is certainly not condemned.

Furthermore, I do not believe that God intended the Military to be Godless. I do not believe God intended Armies to not have witnesses for Him planted among soldiers. I don't believe God would prohibit believers from being in the military and therefore not have any witnesses to testify to their fellow soldiers about who God is and the ability of God to save their souls.

Also God specifies in Romans 13:4 that Governments have been given the authority to bring wrath with the sword (what some may call War or others may call capitol punishment). Romans 13:4 says about rulers of Nations "if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (or evil-doer). God has given authority to Earthly rulers to bear the sword to punish evil doers.

The confusion here comes from the fact that our Bibles are written in English. The original Hebrew has 4 different words for the 1 English word kill. The Bible says "Thou shall not ratsach". This word does not distinguish between intentional and unintentional killing. For example manslaughter and intentional murder are both ratsach. Deuteronomy 19:4-6 says that if a murder is unintentional (manslaughter) than the killer has a chance to escape to a "City of refuge", this is a right that the intentional murderer does NOT have. Both intentional and unintentional murders are ratsach. And God commands us not to intentionally or unintentionally murder people. The other three Hebrew words are harag, shachat and muwth. What is the difference between these words? Great question.

I'll start with muwth (Translated as die 424 times, dead 130 times, slay 100 times, death 83 times, surely 50 times, kill 31 times, dead man 3 times, dead body 2 times, "in no wise" 2 times and other random words 10 times). This is the term for capitol punishment or the term for the punishment of death, because of poor moral choices or sin. This word means to execute (as in the death penalty). It may also mean that someone kills themselves with a sinful lifestyle (drugs etc.). The Lord did not say in the 10 Commandments "Thou shall not muwth", the Lord said "Thou shall not ratsach". This does not condone revenge or vengeance by an individual ("Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord", Romans 12:19), but He did grant authority to Governments to punish, by the sword (Romans 13:4), evil doers (those who are wrongdoers). God states this in Exodus 21:12, "Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death" and Leviticus 24:17 "If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death". The Lord did not call punishment by death a sin. That is why muwth (punishment by death sanctioned by the Government) was commanded by God in Deuteronomy 19:11-13, which I listed above. Does God command people to sin? No. God outlawed murder (ratsach), but has commanded his people to execute evil doers (muwth) for the good of society (as in Deuteronomy 19:11-13).

Next is the word shachat, which means to kill/slay an animal. This difference in killing is specified in the Bible. The Bible makes a clear distinction between human life and animal life. God condems murder as a sin ("Thou shall not ratsach"), but commands animal sacrifice (shachat). Shachat, is used 81 times in the Bible (translated as kill 42, slay 36, offer 1, shot out 1, slaughter1). Also the terms zabach (translated as sacrifice 85, offer 39, kill 5, slay 5) and tabach (translated as kill 4, slaughter 4, slay 2, slain 1) are used to describe killing animals. God commands that animals be killed (zabach) in his name wherever He is to be honored. And God will bless those who kill/sacrifice animals in His name. Sometimes zabach/shachat/tabach is used for the murder of a person, but that is only if the killing of people is done in the style of killing an animal; this type of killing is not acceptable to God. When ratsach(murder) is called shachat(butchering-NIV), because of the style of the murder... it is more vicious (not condoned). But the killing of animals (food, sacrifice, clothing, etc.) is seen as acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. In fact God Himself killed an animal for Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden of Eden, to sacrifice to cover their sin and to clothe them (David Guzik commentary, section 5, verse 21). Some "animal-rights" extremists try to use "Thou shalt not ratsach" to say that we shouldn't eat/kill animals, but clearly God permits eating animals in Acts 11:7, where God commands Peter "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat". Also God himself killed animals for clothes for Adam and Eve, which the "animal-rights" extremists say is evil/wrong. Again, God is not the author of sin. He would not command us to sin. God commanded His people to kill animals (zabach/shachat/tabach) for sacrifice, food, etc., but commanded us not to murder people ("Thou shall not ratsach").

The most complex one, is the term harag. The word harag is used 167 times in the Bible (translated as... slay 100, slain 31, kill 27, murderer 2, destroyed 1, murder 1, out of hand 1, made(slaughter)1, put (to death)1, slayer 1, surely(kill)1). This means to slay or slaughter wholesale and without pity, as in a War. It can be also in an individual way to denote a viciousness of the perpetrator, like how Cain slaughtered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). This was a sinful act of Cain to slaughter/kill his own brother (to War against his own brother - and partly against God). In Ezekiel 9:6 God commanded "Slaughter [harag] old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary". That's a time God commanded to His people to kill/slaughter. It's a time God commanded to War against people. In the book of Ester, the King, because of Ester's Godly intervention, permitted the Jews to War against (kill) his Nation's armies in self-defense ("The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies" - Ester 8:11), to save the Jewish race. God willed this law and the Hebrews slaughtered their enemies, with God's help, protecting the Jewish people and allowing Jesus, the savior, to be born hundreds of years later. God Himself has slaughtered (harag) many Kings and Nations (Psalm 135:10). God gave a prophecy about the Nation of Tyre, in Ezekiel 26:6, that Tyre's settlements "will be ravaged by the sword [harag]. Then they will know that I am the LORD". Exodus 32:27 says "This is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing [harag] his brother and friend and neighbor'". So there are times that harag is sin and there are times that harag was commanded by God. That is EXACTLY what Ecclesiastes 3:3 says. Ecclesiastes 3:3 says there is "a time to kill [harag]". There is never a time to murder ("Thou shall not ratsach"), but the Bible tells us that there is "a time to kill [harag]". Is harag always acceptable to the Lord? No! Cain's action was sin. Many other times when people were slaughtered, it was because of sin... and it was evil. Can we conclude that all harag sin? No. God did command certain times that harag is the right thing to do. God has in His holy scriptures that there is "a time to harag". There are times that God commanded His people to slaughter other peoples or to defend their Nation from attacks. How do we know when it is right to defend one's family and people? How do we know when it is right to War against someone? When is War justified? This leads us to the concept of a "Just War", to describe when harag (War) is sinful and when it is the right thing to do.

What is a "Just War"? What are the conditions necessary to conduct a "Just War"? The "Just War" doctrine was created by Bishop Augustine of Hippo, a famous Theologian in the 4th Century. Some secularists attribute the Just War theory origins to Cicero in the 1st Century B.C.. This idea was further developed by the theologan Thomas Aquinas is the 13th Century. Others have followed in carrying on the idea of promoting a "Just War" ("Just War" origins & history from Wikipedia).

First and foremost in this doctrine is that God has given Government and States the sovereignty to wield the sword. As I mentioned above, Romans 13:4 says about rulers of Nations "if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (or evil-doer). Furthermore 1 Peter 2:13-14 says "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right". This authority does not specify wrongdoers or evil doers inside the Nation. God has given "the sword" to the state to protect it's people and to punish evil doers (which may include both muwth and harag). Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): "The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority." It must be a legitimate authority that wadges war. "The sovereign power of the state is usually considered to be legitimate authority. This means that citizens at their own will cannot attack another country without the permission of the sovereign" ("Just War" Wikipedia). For an individual "to have recourse to the sword (as a private person) by the authority of the sovereign or judge, or (as a public person) through zeal for justice, and by the authority, so to speak, of God, is not to 'take the sword,' but to use it as commissioned by another, wherefore it does not deserve punishment" (from Newadvent). In other words, an individuals actions of harag are accounted to the state and are not counted against them (they do not violate the command "Thou shall not ratsach"). Although citizen's can only wadge War under legitimate authority, under the "Just War" theory, there may be broader definitions of who is legitimate authority, such as NGO's (non-Government Organizations), like the PLO (Palistinian Liberation Organization) (they do not have a State), Al-Quada (they do not have a soveriegn State), Africans in the Darfur region of the Sudan (defending themselves against the Arab-Sudanesse Government assaults on them and selling them as slaves for profit), Godfathers (heads of Gangs, crime syndicates) or Eco-terrorists (ELF - Environmental Liberation Front). The definition might be more stringent than a soveriegn State, like no State has the right to declare war (even in self-defense); only the UN can legitimately approve of a war. But in general, a state is considered legitimate authority.

The second tennent of the "Just War" Doctrine is that the war must be fought for a just cause and right intention. Usually this Just Cause is self-defense, like how the Jews defended themselves, with the King's approval (because of Ester) against the armies/people trying to kill them ( "The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies" - Ester 8:11). "[S]ometimes it is necessary. When it swings open the doors of the stinking concentration camps, when it liberates the slaves, broken and exhausted, when it frees those who are about to be tortured and murdered by the hundreds or thousands or millions, when it makes freedom possible where before existed only gulag, it is a good, not an evil" (Adventis Today, "Sometimes War is Moral"). The example of Ester is not the only place where a just cause is mentioned (the Ester example of a Just Cause of self-defense). The Bible also commands us to "Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:4). Some may use that verse to say that the US Civil War was a Just War, because it fought to end slavery and the oppression of a people. On a BBC website they mention 9 reasons that may be used as Just Cause for a war. These reasons are: Self-Defense (invasion, assassination of a prominent person, attack on honnor[bombing an embassy], attack on the state religion, economic attack), Assisting a Friendly Nation who was Invaded, Human Rights Violations or To Punish an Act of Aggression. Augustine says "(Contra Faust. xxii, 74): "The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war" (from Newadvent). Augustine also comments that "(Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1): 'True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.' For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention" (from Newadvent). Augustine here specifies that Empire Building (aggrandizement) and hatred of a people (cruelty) are evil. But Augustine also mentions virtuous reasons for War such as securing peace and punishing evil doers, as noble things to fight for. It should also be done with right intentions like creating a just peace, righting a wrong and assisting the innocent (Psalm 82:4) (and as long as other "Just War" conditions are met). Augustine also says that "(Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix): "We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace" (from Newadvent).

The third point of a "Just War" is that it must only be wadged if there is a reasonable chance of success. Going to War with the odds stacked against you may seen noble, but it is unethical. It is unethical to kill and have a great loss of life for something that is inevidable. "[I]t would be unethical for a state to sacrifice the lives of its people (and the lives of its enemy's people) in a futile gesture that would not change anything". This makes "The Alamo" an unethical unjust battle, whose ends do not justify it's means. Some do argue however that a weaker power may break the resolve of a stronger power (like the 13 Colonies broke the resolve of the United Kingdom in the War for Independence or like Al-Quada boke the U.S.'s resolve to fight them in Mogadishu). That makes this more complex, but for the traditional "Just War", you do not fight a War you can not win. That is immorally sending people to their death.

The fourth point of a "Just War" is that it must be a last resort. On a web-site said it best, when it said: "Of course the non-violent, non-war solutions are always preferable, if they exist. Every one of them must be tried first if there is the slightest chance of success. Nobody is arguing that war is ever the first preferable alternative. It is the last. But sometimes it is necessary. When it swings open the doors of the stinking concentration camps, when it liberates the slaves, broken and exhausted, when it frees those who are about to be tortured and murdered by the hundreds or thousands or millions, when it makes freedom possible where before existed only gulag, it is a good, not an evil" (Adventis Today, "Sometimes War is Moral"). What are these alternatives that should be tried before War is initiated? These preferable alternatives are "diplomacy, economic sanctions, political pressure from other nations, withdrawal of financial aid, condemnation in the United Nations, and so on. These alternatives should be tried exhaustively and sincerely before violence is used." (BBC "Just War" - Last Resort). On the other hand, "Some writers don't think that 'last' in last resort refers to the sequence of time. They argue that last resort means that the use of force is ethical only when it is really necessary and when no reasonable alternative is left. They say that that war should be the least preferred course of action, but not necessarily the course of action that isn't tried until afterevery other course of action has failed.They argue that sometimes it will be morally better to go to war sooner rather than later. This might be because waiting too long would allow the enemy to do much more damage, or kill more people than an early war would have done; or may allow the enemy to become so established in another country's territory than far greater force will have to be used to remove him than would have been needed earlier" (BBC "Just War" - Last Resort).

These previous four are the criteria which must be met in order to fight a "Just War". This is called the Jus Ad Bellum criteria. The way in which the War is wadged must also be just in order for the War to be just. The actions of the participants in the War must follow the "Just War" Doctrine. The prescription of action during a "Just War" is called Jus In Bello.

First rule of fighting a "Just War" is that the killing (harag) must be directed at combatants and not at innocent non-participants. There sometimes is confusion over who is a combatant and who isn't, especially in the fog of War. Combantants are: "members of military forces, members of guerrilla forces (even though not in uniform, and anyone who takes up arms in the conflict, other than in direct self-defence", but they may be "soldiers who have been wounded or who have surrendered - this hasn't always been so - armies used to make a point of butchering enemy wounded or those who surrendered - although soldiers who surrender shouldn't be killed, it's quite legitimate to make them prisoners so that they can't attack you again, military personnel clearly identified as having specifically non-combatant roles such as medical staff and chaplains - such personnel are often injured or killed because their job takes them into the most dangerous parts of the battle" (BBC "Just War" - Just Conduct). Also there are people which MAY be considered "combatants" even though they don't have weapons (because they are not "innocent"); the people would be "civilians who are helping the war effort - these are people working to supply the troops and to provide them with weapons or helping in other ways. They aren't combatants in the sense of bearing arms, but they are an essential part of the war machine and constitute a threat to the other side" (BBC "Just War" - Just Conduct). People that are killed, who's deaths would certainly be considered ratsach (murder) are: "all citizens of neutral countries, unless they do something incompatible with their neutral status - like fighting for one of the armies involved in the conflict as a mercenary soldier, the old and the sick, children [although, children were historically used as combatants, e.g. the 'powder monkeys' in warships in the days of sail AND child soldiers are becoming more common in terrorist conflicts and third world armies, NOT TO MENTION THAT International conventions specify that countries should not allow children under 15 to participate in hostilities or to be recruited into the armed forces" (BBC "Just War" - Just Conduct). The Bible says this in Proverbs 6:16-17, "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood". This verse have many believe that using any WMD's (like nuclear or chemical weapons) are immoral, because they do not kill only combatants, but innocent people as well, making the user of WMD's guilty of manslaughter (involentary murder - ratsach), which is far beyond a just death (a harag by justice - death by a "Just War").

The second rule of fighting a "Just War" is torture of combatants is forbidden. I don't think this is supposed to include Psychological Warfare, but I don't know. Psyops or Psychological Warfare may be called "torture" in the sense of how the US played Barney & Seasame Street Music really loud in Iraq which caused people to surrender. Yes Amnesty International filed a complaint that the US using Barney songs on Iraqi's was "torture". I'm not sure where the "torture" line is, but Psyops seems to be a gray area in a "Just War". (The advantage is that combatants may surrender without bloodshed, but is Psyops considered torturous means and therefore an unjust warfare tactic?)

I'm going to wrap this up quick... the next rules in a "Just War" are to treat POW's respectfully (not like Abu Ghraib), the force should be proportional to the offense and that drafting is unjust.

These are the times, that many argue that the Bible says that one may kill (harag), but it would not be murder (ratsach). These times are listed in Ecclesiastes 3:3, where the Bible says that there is "a time to kill [harag]". Why would Christians be pro-war? Sometimes War is more just then to allow evil (Nazi's, etc.) to continue it's oppression and murder.


At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

# Why Would a Christian Ever be Pro-War???

Hypocrisy, maybe?


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