God of (Just) War?

“God supports war” has been a common belief throughout history.  And increasingly, we seem to be hearing it again, as many people contemplate how to respond to recent world events.  But is the belief accurate?

Clearly, the topic of how war, Christianity, politics, and Jesus interact together is deeply complex.  I am certainly not claiming to describe or understand all of it.  That being said, though, I’d like to briefly address one specific statement that is often used in the discussion:

“God commanded war in the Old Testament”.  Yes he did.  But what might that mean for today?

Notwithstanding the need for a careful and consistent biblical hermeneutic (ie, framework for interpreting the Bible), let me make one observation (and yes, I know this might be be controversial).  😉

If you or I use “God commanded war in the Old Testament” as our justification for the theological legitimacy of international warfare today, then in essence, what we are saying is that we believe that God has directly spoken to Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and other national leaders and has explicitly told them that he wants them to destroy another nation.  That is what is actually described in the Old Testament, so if we are going to be consistent with the text itself, it is also what we must believe to be true today.  If the theological reality is timeless (ie, God-ordained war), then the practical conditions must be as well (ie, political leaders directly hearing the specific voice of God).  We can’t have the first and ignore the second just because it is uncomfortable.

I, for one, find it highly unlikely that God himself has directly communicated to our specific national leaders and has commanded them to destroy each other.  So … lets toss the careless use of  “God commanded war in the Old Testament” out of the conversation (or at least interpret and apply it more carefully), and find other ways to have this important discussion.

As mentioned earlier, the topics of just war, society and state, peacemaking, etc are complex and challenging.  But, I suspect that if our interpretation and application of ancient texts is more careful and consistent, the quality of our conversations will improve.  And at this time in history, we need all the careful wisdom that we can get!



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One Reply to “God of (Just) War?”

  1. Interpreting the Old Testament in a consistent way is not easy – and applying OT ethics to current situations is always a risky procedure. If we’re going to do it at all, we need to be very careful about how we do it. So thanks for pointing out the dangers of this particular argument.

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