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Defense and War: A Biblical Perspective
Lew Rockwell ^ | 11/23/01 | Ron McKenzie

Posted on 11/23/2001 4:03:53 AM PST by Ada Coddington

Defense and War: A Biblical Perspective
by Ron McKenzie

A key responsibility of the civil government is to protect its citizens from attack by wrongdoers. This involves punishing those who break the law. It also involves defending the nation from every external attacker, including nations, other groups of people or dangerous pests and diseases. All these responsibilities are encompassed in the power of the sword (Romans 13:1-8). Therefore, pacifism is not a Christian option.

The Bible gives a nation the right of self-defence. However there are a number of principles which should control the civil government’s exercise of this authority in the fulfilment of its responsibilities.

1.War is only justified for defence (Romans 13:1-8). It should not be used to expand a nation's boundaries, or to take control of another nation, or to extract trade advantages. This is a fundamental principle. A nation should never need to establish military domination in another region or nation.
2.The idea of a Christian Holy War has no basis in Scriptures. The nation of Israel conquered and destroyed the Canaanite nations. This was only done after a specific and direct command from God (Deut 7:1,2). This was a special case where God had a specific purpose in terms of the salvation he planned for Israel. It is not an example that can be followed by Christians or a Christian nation. We should not use war to win people for the gospel. (We should be honest and admit that the crusades were a mistake, however well-intentioned the crusaders may have been).
3.A Christian nation must not have a large "standing army"(Deut 17:16; 1 Kings 10:26-29). An army that is constantly training for war is dangerous, because it will be tempted to find a situation where it can use its skills. The military should not be given too much political power, as they will have a tendency to use war to solve all problems.
4.The defence force should take the form of a part-time local militia. The central command structure may be full-time professional so that the defence of the nation can be well organised (Deut 20:5). However, most of the soldiers will be trained civilians who can be called up when a defence force is needed. As they have other interests there will be no danger of them becoming over militant and fighting unnecessary wars. However, because they will be defending their families and friends they will be highly motivated if they are needed. They will be well prepared, but they will be only rarely called upon to fight.
5.The militia should be up made of volunteers. Anyone who is faint-hearted or afraid should not be forced to fight (Deut 20:5-9). People who are at a critical stage in their lives should not be forced into military service. For example, men who have recently married, started building a house or started a business should be freed from service, because they would not be focused on the battle.
6.The army of a Christian nation will not have offensive weapons (Deut 17:16). God forbade the king from acquiring great numbers of horses for himself. The reason for this was that horses and chariots, at that time, were offensive weapons used for attacking other nations. The defence of the nation would not need large numbers of them. A modern defence force should choose weapons that are best for defensive purposes.
7.Only the civil government has authority to declare war. Individuals or companies do not have the authority to commit a nation to war. Any declaration of war must be in accordance with correct legal processes (Deut 20:10).
8.War should always be the last resort. Before declaring war, the civil government should try every means possible to obtain peace (Deut 20:10). We should never forget the horror of war. It is always costly in terms of human suffering. Christians should never glorify war. While it is an honour for a man to give his life to defend his family and community, war is never an ideal solution. A Christian government should be prepared for war, if it is attacked, but it should also hope that it would never have to fight.
9.A Christian nation should always seek God’s will before declaring war. A nation going to war, because it thinks it is right, is being presumptuous (Deut 1:41-44). Presumption is a terrible sin. If the war has God’s blessing, the army is more likely to have success.
10.A Christian government should only declare war if it thinks it has a reasonable chance of success. Jesus said that before a king goes to war, he should sit down and consider whether he can match the army that is coming against him. If not he will send a delegation to ask for terms of peace (Luke 14:31-32), even if this involves a loss of freedom. For Christians freedom is not an absolute value. It may be better to lose freedom to govern, than to lose a large number of lives in an unsuccessful defence. In fact, because Jesus has set us free, we cannot lose our freedom.

Two things should always be remembered,

a.Christianity can survive under extremely hostile environments. It was born in the hostile world of the Roman Empire. In our own time, Christianity has blossomed under the hostility of both the Soviet Union and Communist China. Therefore, Christianity will never be dependent on winning a war for its survival. If a Christian government has no hope of defending against attack, it should surrender, knowing that Christianity will survive. b.It is God who determines the appointed times of the nations and the boundaries of there habitations. (Acts 17:26, cf Job 12:23, Deut 32:8) If a nation is invaded by another and this is not God’s will, he will not allow the situation to last long. For example, after the Second World War, the Russian Empire took control of most of Eastern Europe. However, because this was contrary to God’s will, that empire had collapsed within fifty years. If a nation is unable to defend itself, all is not lost; God will have his way in the end.

Counting the cost of war, is not just a matter of estimating how many soldiers will be lost. The full cost of the war should be counted. There are generally very few winners in war. The cost for the families of those who die is enormous. For the soldiers who survive the cost can also be high. Many will have injuries that blight their lives. Worse still, war has a desensitising effect on its participants, and good men can be drawn into doing great evil. They will have to live with there consciences. War is also an enormous waste of economic resources. There are actually very few situations serious enough to justify the enormous costs of war.

11.Deut 20:1-5 declares that a small army with God on its side can beat a large well-armed one. A good example of this is Gideon, who defeated a large Midianite army with 300 unarmed men (Judges 7). However, this promise should not be used as a justification for foolish wars.
12.Total war, as it has been practised in this last century, is prohibited by the Bible. Those engaged in war are prohibited from attacking and damaging the land (Deut 20). The same protection would apply to women and children. Non-combatants should also be protected.
13.This prohibition makes nuclear war unacceptable. Nuclear weapons would harm the land and non-combatants. The same principle would rule out many modern weapons. Only weapons which can be targeted at combatants or other weapons can be used by a Christian nation. On the other hand, anti-ballistic missile defence systems may be justified, because they are defensive.

14.Military alliances are common in the modern world. However these are forbidden over and over again in the Bible. A Christian nation has a covenant with God. It cannot be totally committed to God, and place its faith in another nation for defence (Is 31:1-3). Therefore, defence alliances are not an option for a Christian nation.
15.God determines the appointed times of the nations and the timing of their rule. (Acts 17:26). No nation has the authority to invade another nation to change its government (even if it is evil). A nation cannot even be invaded to establish democracy. (Democracy must come from the hearts of the people, it cannot be enforced from the outside.) Most attempts by great powers to establish "better" government by force in other nations have failed, because the spiritual forces that control the nation have not been defeated (Dan 10:13).

The principles outlined here allow a nation to defend itself, but there are very severe restrictions on which methods may be used. Likewise there are very strict conditions which must be fulfilled before war may be justified. Almost all modern conflicts would fail to meet these conditions. The Bible recognises the horror of war. There are probably very few situations that would justify the cost of war. It should be an extremely rare event.

The current war in Afghanistan does fit with these principles. The people who organised the attack on the World Trade Centre, committed a dreadful crime and should be punished as criminals. However, the nation of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The Taliban did not attack the United States. Afghanistan may be harbouring the criminals who organised the attack, but that is not a justification for war. We may dislike the Taliban intensely, but that does not justify war against them. The United States does not have the right to determine who should govern Afghanistan. (The Taliban gained power through victory in a civil war. This is the same way that the current federal system in the United States was established). The United States is not defending itself against an attack by Afghanistan, so it is not justified in attacking Afghanistan.

The methods of warfare being used in Afghanistan cannot be justified either. Bombs that destroy the land and can kill and maim civilians are forbidden by Deuteronomy 20. The alliance with the ungodly men of the Northern Alliance is also contrary to the Scriptures.

November 23, 2001

Ron McKenzie is an economist in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is also a Presbyterian minister.


TOPICS: Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: christianlist; christianpersecutio
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian
What do you make of post 76, then?........it seems clear to me that this is an offensive action being undertaken.

I understand the points being made regarding blatant aggression, but well, I suppose a good example would be the current situation in Afghanistan.........

151 posted on 11/26/2001 5:19:50 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian
I suppose what I am posing to you is this:

Do you see where it is prudent to carry a fight to an enemy on his soil? Do you consider an attack against a foreign power's infrastructure, etc. a correct thing to do? Or do we simply defend against them when they arrive on our shores? Please clarify.

152 posted on 11/26/2001 5:27:48 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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Comment #153 Removed by Moderator

To: He Rides A White Horse
What do you make of post 76, then?........it seems clear to me that this is an offensive action being undertaken.

From the article:

Re: #76, I would concur with the author.

In the history of the world, one small plot of land was specifically allocated by God to one Covenantal Union, the Levitical Republic (later, kingdom) of Israel. The military actions taken by the Israelites in conquest of that plot of land was, theonomically, a matter of theocratic "self-defense". (It was *their* Land. God said so).

This case has no reference to Christian military theology.

154 posted on 11/26/2001 5:53:47 PM PST by OrthodoxPresbyterian
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To: tex-oma
Okay, O-P. Hmmm. Opie. I better stop now....

Nah, go right ahead.

I discovered some months ago that some of my detractors had taken to referring to me as "Urinal1975". LOL!! As playground taunts go, I think I prefer "Opie" to "Urinal1975". Fire away. ;-)

155 posted on 11/26/2001 5:55:53 PM PST by OrthodoxPresbyterian
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To: Ada Coddington
AHem, you need to get to know the NEW Testament. The OLD Testament, which you constantly quote is directed to our Jewish friends. Unless you are Jewish, it doesn't apply in the manner you use it.

As for Christians going to war, geesh, if the U.S. didn't go to war more Jews would have been gassed and England would be saying Heil Hitler. Honestly, instead of doing a copy/paste of someone elses thoughts, THINK nad get to know the NEW Testament! Then you can understand what Christianity is all about.

156 posted on 11/26/2001 6:00:20 PM PST by nmh
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To: He Rides A White Horse
I suppose what I am posing to you is this: Do you see where it is prudent to carry a fight to an enemy on his soil? Do you consider an attack against a foreign power's infrastructure, etc. a correct thing to do? Or do we simply defend against them when they arrive on our shores? Please clarify. 152 posted on 11/26/01 6:27 PM Pacific by He Rides A White Horse

Yes. The State's Covenantal Duty is to kill murderers. If that requires "invading" their territory... well, they are murderers, fer-cryin-out-loud.

That does not always mean that this is the best option in terms of prudence (though it often is); but beyond that, it certainly does not mean that it is always the best option, once one has ventured into the rat's nest with a bottle full of "just war" rat-poison, to then stay and take up residence there.

In My Humble Opinion, the Middle East is a rat's nest. Once we have killed the offending rats in question, I would just as soon leave. My copy of the Constitution expects the Federal Government to guarantee a "republican form of Government" to the States; it says nothing whatsoever about madly attempting to guarantee a republican form of Government to Afghanistan!!!

157 posted on 11/26/2001 6:04:45 PM PST by OrthodoxPresbyterian
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian
9.A Christian nation should always seek God’s will before declaring war.

I couldn't agree more. I wasn't of naked acts of aggression, nor was I speaking of the forcible conversion of a populace to my beliefs. "Believe in my God, or I'll cut your head off" just doesn't strike me as a valid mechanism to gain converts. Anyway.........

I believe we are on the same page, for the most part. I'm off to watch the Buccaneers wage war on the Rams (or vice versa). If you have more, I'll post back later.

158 posted on 11/26/2001 6:12:59 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: He Rides A White Horse
I believe we are on the same page, for the most part.

I think so too. God bless, and enjoy the game.

159 posted on 11/26/2001 6:16:23 PM PST by OrthodoxPresbyterian
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To: nmh
AHem, you need to get to know the NEW Testament. The OLD Testament, which you constantly quote is directed to our Jewish friends. Unless you are Jewish, it doesn't apply in the manner you use it.The author is a Presbyterian minister, and they regard the OT and the NT equally. The Bible is a seamless book.

As for Christians going to war, geesh, if the U.S. didn't go to war more Jews would have been gassed and England would be saying Heil Hitler. Honestly, instead of doing a copy/paste of someone elses thoughts, THINK nad get to know the NEW Testament! Then you can understand what Christianity is all about.

I don't think we can say what would have happened if we had not intervened--a case can be made, for instance, that Eastern Europe would still be Christian.

160 posted on 11/27/2001 5:34:38 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: He Rides A White Horse
They clearly sponsored this action

Where's the evidence to support that contention?

161 posted on 11/27/2001 5:43:21 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: rwfromkansas
I justify it in this sense: we are defending ourselves, and we are doing our duty being a terror to evil-doers. Anybody who is against this war is un-American and a heretic of the Christian faith for being a Pacifist.

Can you not be a better terror to evil doers if you fight them rather than designated whipping boys? I don't see any middle class Saudis and Egyptians shaking in their boots.

162 posted on 11/27/2001 5:45:48 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: Ada Coddington
The author started with a premise and tried to fit scripture into his premise. He makes some fine points but leads us along a pre-chosen path that ends where it fits his philosophy and not necessarily Biblical philosophy.
163 posted on 11/27/2001 5:54:14 AM PST by lockeliberty
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To: He Rides A White Horse
I disagree wholeheartedly.

In order to disagree that wholeheartedly, you will have to believe that we had no plans to replace the Taliban prior to 911.

Perhaps so but irrelevant. The people of Afghanistan will be no better off under the Northern Alliance who while just as nice as the Taliban, also deal in opium.

I realize that the above word is bandied about quite a bit on FR, but I assure you they have earned this description.

Calling someone a Nazi is admitting defeat in an argument :-). They are a nasty piece of work but not unique.

It is a government that marches in, subjugates the people of the land, then believes it can launch attacks with impunity against whomever they feel like........all the while putting up feeble protestations as to how our campaign is terrorizing the very people they have tortured beyond belief.

The question is whether the Taliban had any pre-knowledge or involvement in 911 which would justify our attack on them. I have seen no evidence that this is so.

164 posted on 11/27/2001 5:55:26 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: lockeliberty
The author started with a premise and tried to fit scripture into his premise. He makes some fine points but leads us along a pre-chosen path that ends where it fits his philosophy and not necessarily Biblical philosophy.

Scripture doesn't say much on waging war, so the author was using standard Christian theory about what constitutes a just war.

165 posted on 11/27/2001 6:02:00 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: Ada Coddington
6.The army of a Christian nation will not have offensive weapons (Deut 17:16)... A modern defence force should choose weapons that are best for defensive purposes.

A weapon by definition is both offensive and defensive. If I bomb a military target I consider it a defensive weapon. There is no way for the author to define an offensive weapon that is unbiblical.

14.Military alliances are common in the modern world. However these are forbidden over and over again in the Bible. A Christian nation has a covenant with God. It cannot be totally committed to God, and place its faith in another nation for defence (Is 31:1-3). Therefore, defence alliances are not an option for a Christian nation.

Silly. God made man an interactive creature in which he wanted man to work together to acheive good. This applies to nations working together. The scripture sited talks about being reliant upon another nation without seeking God's help. God used Rahab to help defeat Jerhico.

13.This prohibition makes nuclear war unacceptable. Nuclear weapons would harm the land and non-combatants.

Again silly. Can you imagine what this world would be like if during the middle of the cold war the US adopted that policy. God gave us minds so that we could make logical decisions. If our intentions were to destroy another nation to take over it's resources than that use of Nuclear weapons would be wrong. The weapons themselves are not evil but any evil intent for their use. Romans 14:14

15.God determines the appointed times of the nations and the timing of their rule. (Acts 17:26). No nation has the authority to invade another nation to change its government (even if it is evil).

Dumb. At the end of WWII were we suppose to just let the Nazi's keep on ruling after we destroyed their army. When Israel destroyed another nation it would set up it's new government. As Christians we believe that individuals are created in the image of God and thus we must try and protect individuals of all nations. The particular form of government is less important than that the government ensure the protection of the individuals.

However, the nation of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The Taliban did not attack the United States. Afghanistan may be harbouring the criminals who organised the attack, but that is not a justification for war.

Ignorant. Omar is the leader of the Taliban and is tied at the hip with Bin Laden thus the leader of the nation is also the leader of the terrorists.

As I said, the author is trying to fit the Bible into the libertarian philosophy of world relations. I'm libertarian when it comes to US domestic policy. The libertarian foriegn policy is simply ignorant.

166 posted on 11/27/2001 7:02:24 AM PST by lockeliberty
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To: lockeliberty
" 14.Military alliances are common in the modern world. However these are forbidden over and over again in the Bible. A Christian nation has a covenant with God. It cannot be totally committed to God, and place its faith in another nation for defence (Is 31:1-3). Therefore, defence alliances are not an option for a Christian nation. "

Silly. God made man an interactive creature in which he wanted man to work together to acheive good. This applies to nations working together. The scripture sited talks about being reliant upon another nation without seeking God's help. God used Rahab to help defeat Jerhico

Rahab wasn't another nation--she was a lady of easy virtue who hid spies. OTOH scripture does tell us that Israel was destroyed for playing the prostitute with Egypt.

167 posted on 11/27/2001 9:23:20 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: lockeliberty
" However, the nation of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The Taliban did not attack the United States. Afghanistan may be harbouring the criminals who organised the attack, but that is not a justification for war. "

Ignorant. Omar is the leader of the Taliban and is tied at the hip with Bin Laden thus the leader of the nation is also the leader of the terrorists.

I have seen no evidence linking bin Laden or anyone from Afghanistan with the 911 attacks and thus cannot conclude that the mullah Omar was complicit.

As I said, the author is trying to fit the Bible into the libertarian philosophy of world relations. I'm libertarian when it comes to US domestic policy. The libertarian foriegn policy is simply ignorant.

Libertarian philosophy meshes easily with scripture. Libertarian foreign policy revolves around us minding our own business, which at least on the surface appears to be sensible.

168 posted on 11/27/2001 9:29:05 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: Ada Coddington
Calling someone a Nazi is admitting defeat in an argument :-).

I know when to admit defeat, but it won't be here, Ada.

169 posted on 11/27/2001 12:31:29 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: Ada Coddington
Rahab wasn't another nation--she was a lady of easy virtue who hid spies. OTOH scripture does tell us that Israel was destroyed for playing the prostitute with Egypt

James 2:25- And in the same manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

You're parsing scripture just as the author did. Don't limit what God uses for his own ends. If he wants nations to ally themselves they will then ally themselves. God used Rahab, a foriegn harlot, for his purposes.

I have seen no evidence linking bin Laden or anyone from Afghanistan with the 911 attacks and thus cannot conclude that the mullah Omar was complicit.

And if you saw the evidence would that change your mind?

Libertarian philosophy meshes easily with scripture. Libertarian foreign policy revolves around us minding our own business, which at least on the surface appears to be sensible.

The Bible clearly delineates between actions between individuals ( The area in which I agree with libertarian principles )and the role of government in upholding justice. Because God is a just God he requires governments to uphold justice. The actions of 911 require that justice be upheld.

170 posted on 11/27/2001 1:01:10 PM PST by lockeliberty
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To: He Rides A White Horse
"You can all be whatever you want to be, as long as you all think the same."

No, it's more like, you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you think like "US." :)

171 posted on 11/28/2001 8:21:36 AM PST by nicmarlo
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To: nicmarlo
Yes, I believe I stand corrected. (g)
172 posted on 11/28/2001 10:31:45 AM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: He Rides A White Horse
Yes, I believe I stand corrected.

'Tis what friends are for: to correct their friends' flaws. :) Fregards.

173 posted on 11/28/2001 1:49:22 PM PST by nicmarlo
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To: nicmarlo
pingity bumpity
174 posted on 11/28/2001 1:53:26 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: Demidog

Ping


175 posted on 10/10/2004 3:17:43 PM PDT by Jay P.S.
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