Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know this is a loaded question. I don't want to de-value the sacrifice of the men and women who have died for our country, but can a Christian really believe that war is justifiable? Shouldn't Christians be pacifists? I know that Quakers are, but what about the rest of us? Your thoughts?
A Curious Pacifist
Dear Curious Pacifist,
Wars and rumors of wars fill the news, and our country is currently involved in international conflicts. I do not presume to have all the answers. But, since you asked, to the best of my ability, here are some thoughts on an age old question: “If God is both loving and all-powerful, how can He allow war to take place? Either He is not loving, or He is not all powerful, or He is neither.” While this line of reasoning seems so logical and irrefutable, a little more information from God’s revelation reveals another option. The answer is in the biblical world-view.
God never intended the world to be like this. Rebellion in heaven
and rebellion on earth changed everything! Evil is now set free on earth. Satan now holds tremendous sway over the world. The battle against Evil is upon us. The Book of Revelation tells the final story of how God will one day take back the title deed to earth and once again restore it in alignment with His original intentions.
Let’s examine a true story parable: Grizzlies are in the woods.
Over the years Christians have argued about the proper biblical way God wants us to handle the bears.
The Crusades—kill all the bears!
Pacifism—leave the bears alone and hope that love and a non-violent attitude will induce them to go away.
Just War—stop and/or neutralize the bears that cause trouble.
I believe that the just war is the only response that makes sense.
God determined that some circumstances warrant the just use of force (Exodus 22:2
It is clearly God’s intent that we strive for peace. Yet, some circumstances warrant the use of force—but under what conditions? Biblical, justifiable war has at least five essential aspects.
First, the primary purpose is to defend those under attack.
Second, vengeance is tempered by justice.
a, 4: “But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Third, there must be a reasonable prospect of victory—of achieving the ends for which the war is fought.
: “Consider your resources before you go out to fight a war—if you are not in a position to win, negotiate.”
On April 19, 1952, General Douglas MacArthur stood before a joint session of Congress to deliver his famous farewell address: "...old soldiers never die, they just fade away." His speech, however, is much more than a farewell. It also includes the following thoughts on war and peace: "...It has been said in effect that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory."
Fourth, the motives must be pure.
: “Why do you fight? Because you have the wrong motives in your heart..
: “God Judges The Thoughts And Attitudes Of The Heart.”
But, our real defense as a nation rests in the spiritual convictions, character, and commitment of our citizenry.
: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."
2 Chronicles 7:14
: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Fifth, the post-war attitude is one of mercy.
: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
John Stuart Mill: "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks nothing is worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than his own personal safety is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless he is made free and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
Yes, some things are still worth living and dying for.
Bears still roam the wilderness of our world. May God help us.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: March 22, 2016