A Christian View of War – Part I

  • This week many proud Americans celebrated Veteran’s Day (11/11/13), a national holiday honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.
  • While many Christians have participated in military service throughout history, the topic of the proper view of warfare in the Christian faith is one that has historically caused much consternation and debate. Four key biblical insights can give us some helpful guidance on this topic.
  • First, death and violence were not a part of God’s original created order for humanity and will one day be done away with forever (Romans 5:12; Genesis 6:11-13; Revelation 21:3-5; Isaiah 2:4). In the meantime we live in a fallen world in which war is an unfortunate reality.
  • Second, war is something that God has at times condoned, participated in, and will participate in again in the future (Exodus 15:1-18; 17:8-15; Numbers 31:1-3; Deuteronomy 2:26-31; 3:1-7; 20:1-4; Joshua 5:13-6:27; 2 Kings 19:32-36; Revelation 6:1-2; 19:11-21; 20:7-10). Thus, it cannot be said that all war is inherently evil.
  • Third, in Exodus 20:13 the sixth commandment admonishes us, “You shall not murder.” What’s interesting to note about this commandment is that it is only directed against murder, the wrongful taking of another human life. Scripture assumes a distinction between murder and certain other forms of killing, such as capital punishment or warfare, which it allows for (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 21:12-14; and passages cited above).
  • Fourth, in allowing for certain other forms of killing, God has ordained human governments, not private citizens, as the agents of justice, retribution, rewards and punishments (Matthew 5:38-39; Romans 12:17-13:7; 1 Peter 2: 13-17). Therefore, it may at times be appropriate and just for human governments to use deadly force to oppose evil.
  • Based on the biblical insights listed above, Christians throughout the centuries have formulated some guiding principles as to how and when human governments may rightly participate in warfare. These principles have become known as the “Just War Tradition”, which we will examine further next week.

For more information on warfare in light of Scripture, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, available in our online store.