[21]   International: War & Weapons of Mass Destruction


During the Iraq war in April 2003, a poll reported that about three-quarters of Americans believed that “war is the right decision.” The support for war was highest among evangelical Protestants (87%), then by Catholics (81%), mainline Protestants (70%) while among secular Americans, who never or seldom go to church, only 59% supported the war.

97.  Wars are bad. How can a war be justified?

a.   Wars are sometimes justified because there are two conflicing norms involved in a war:

(1)  Justice: Fighting a war to repel unjust invasion, e.g. Japan invaded China in 1937.

(2)  Peace (Hebrew: shalom) or non-violence: Not fighting the war to retain peace

b.   BUT in the Bible, true peace means peace with justice and freedom (Ps 85:10). Letting unjust invaders conquer and plunder your country is not true peace.

c.   A war is justified if the ultimate aim is to uphold justice and in the end obtain true peace.

98.  What is the historical position of the Church towards war?

a.   General position: Killing is not God’s will. Wars are always bad, but sometimes unavoidable.

b.   In early church (first 3 centuries), most Christians objected and condemned entering any military service, mainly because of idolatrous rites required of everyone in the Roman legions.

c.   After Constantine (AD 4th century) placed Christianity as the national religion, most theologians support Christian participation in wars, provided that they are “just”.

d.   Today, some denominations (such as the Mennonites and Quakers) are pacifists and are completely against any Christian involvement in war.

99.  What is the meaning of just war?

a.   The traditional position of the church is to support “just war”, held by most theologians including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin.

b.   Characteristics of a just war:

(1)  Legitimate declaration: by legitimate authority (e.g. the government which defends an invasion)

(2)  With justice: including objective “just cause” (e.g. to resist invasion) and subjective “just motive” (e.g. to attain peace)

(3)  With limits: war as the last resort, use of minimum force required, violence only against combatants

(4)  With hope: reasonable hope of success, good consequences outweigh the evils of war

100.     Could Christians ever support a just war?

Arguments against War

Arguments for “Just War”

The norm to consider is peace or non-violence. In order to maintain peace, wars should never be fought.

The norm to consider is justice. Wars can be fought to repel injustice, such as the Nazi invasion in World War II. In the Bible, true peace means peace with justice and freedom.

War is not God’s will:

(1)   Old Testament wars were approved by God not because of justice but because of man’s hardness of heart.

(2)   Those wars were won through miracles, not by superior strategy or sophisticated weapons (Jos 6).

(3)   Christian warfare is spiritual, not carnal (Eph 6:10-18).

War of justice was approved by God (Heb 11:32-34):

(1)   God’s justice demands that evil must be restrained, if necessary by force.

(2)   It is a divine obligation to provide needs of the family (1Ti 5:8). This includes the obligation to protect.

(3)   The state is the servant of God to restrain evil (Ro 13:4), including evils done by own citizens or by external enemies.

Jesus taught non-violence and non-resistance (Mt 5:38-48). Violence is explicitly forbidden by Jesus (Mt 26:52; Lk 9:54-55; Jn 18:36).

(1)   Applying this passage against war is confusing private and public duties.

(2)   Violence can be necessary: Jesus did use force (Jn 2:13-16; Mt 21:12-13) and challenged injustice (Jn 18:22-23).

Jesus died an innocent victim in the face of injustice (1Pe 2:21-24).

His death was a special act of salvation. It was in fact a war for justice (Ro 3:25-26) against powers of evil (Heb 10:12-14).

Paul taught against revenge (Ro 12:17-21).

(1)   Most wars are not revenge.

(2)   Resisting injustice can be necessary: Paul did exercise his rights and challenge injustice (Ac 22:25-23:3).

To evaluate whether a war is justified is often arbitrary. Further, actions during the war may violate the original objective.

Christians can only support a war so long as it meets the “just war” criteria.

 VERDICT:    Arguments for “just war” are stronger on all the above points.

101.     Which wars in recent history can qualify as just wars? (see extended notes for details)

·         Defending China against Japanese invasion (1937-1945): clearly a just war

·         Gulf War against Iraq by the United Nations (1991): a just war

·         Gulf War against Iraq by the United Nations (1991): a just war

·         Bombing of Yugoslavia (Serbia) by NATO (1999): NOT a just war

·         Invasion of Iraq by US-led Coalition (2003): arguably a just war

102.     Can Christians support the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?

·         WMD refers to chemical, biological, nuclear weapons that have large destructive potential to kill a large number of people. Nuclear weapons have the highest potential to kill.

·         Was the use of atomic bombs on Japan (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) in 1945 justified? No, they killed millions of civilians. They might have shortened the war slightly but are not justified.

·         The use of resources to develop WMDs cannot be supported. However, the development of ways to reduce or eliminate the effects of WMDs (missile shield) is justifiable.


Arguments against Nuclear Weapons

Arguments for Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate in design and are thus immoral, against the norm by shedding innocent blood, such as non-combatants (Isa 59:7-8; Ro 3:15).

Modern nuclear arms are very accurate and can be directed only against combatants.

Once started, nuclear war will escalate and result in Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.), long-term radiation hazard, or nuclear winter.

M.A.D. and nuclear winter are hypothetical and is unlikely to happen in view of extreme caution exercised in the past by all countries.

The resources for developing nuclear arms are best used for economic development.

The development and maintenance of conventional weapons is actually more expensive.

It is impossible to limit nuclear weapons to just deterrence; there is always a possibility of using them.

Nuclear weapons can act as a deterrence to military aggression without actually using them.

 VERDICT:    Arguments against the use of nuclear weapons are stronger.