A couple of days I posted an article on peace and violence I had found on the internet that I thought made a good case for non violence and peace. Today I would like to explore that a bit further with some of my own thoughts
Two Different Views On War
1. Just War Theory
This is the idea that under certain circumstances it is permissible for Christians to join the military and fight for oneâs country or other justifiable causes.
2. Peace and Non Violence
This is the idea that war and violence are never justified and therefore are immoral.
Which of these options are biblically correct as applies to Christians? If there are times or places where war and killing can be justified then I believe the message of peace is wrong. Humans can always find ways to justify going to war or killing someone in my opinion. However I, and many others, believe war is wrong under all circumstances and cannot be justified. Thus for Christians the message of peacemaking is the only viable option for Christians to embrace and follow.
Some may argue that the Old Testament shows God as a man of war. He allegedly orders his people to wipe out entire nations including women and children as well as non combatants so his people can take their land for themselves. He is pictured as a God who plays favorites favoring Israel over anyone else. He is also seen as a God who favors the wholesale slaughter of all those who donât worship in a way he approves of. All this is done without any mercy extended. This tradition has been the basis for supporting wars, crusades, genocide and so called âJust Warâ.
However many Progressive Christians see a different message contained within the pages of scripture. They instead see a message of peace starting with Moses in the Ten Commandments, proceeding through the prophets like Micah and Isaiah and culminating in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is this message, as we shall see, that the early church historically embraced, followed and died for. That is the message I would like to explore further here.
A. Thou Shall Not Kill
The first scripture many will point to is taken from the Decalogue where it plainly states âThou shall not killâ.(Exodus 20:13) On the surface that would seem to solve the problem no killing period. However some will point out that the word used here in the Hebrew means to commit premeditated murder and therefore war is allowed.That is also how many modern Bible translate the verse as murder. How true is that? Is there a difference between war and murder which would justify the one while condemning the other?
In the Bible there are four definitions for the word kill.
Hebrew Definition for Kill
a. To dash in pieces and kill a human being. It can also refer to one who murders, puts someone to death, or slays a fellow human being.
b. To seize with deadly intent. It also means to destroy out of hand and to slaughter.
Greek Definition for Kill
Greek is the language in which the words of Jesus were first written down in with the exception of Matthew which was written in Aramaic then translated into. I j Greek. It reinforces what the Hebrew says.
a. The first meaning in the Greek means to slay.
b. The second meaning means to murder, slay or to slaughter.
These are the biblical definitions for murder as used throughout the Bible.
Websterâs Definition of Murder
Webster defines murder as the crime of deliberately killing a person.
So then the Decalogue seemingly prohibits any killing of a human being without exception. Thus, this would outlaw war as it meets the criteria for all the things God says we are not supposed to do. In war someone has to sit down, come up with a battle plan, figure out how many of his men will die in the upcoming battle and whether that is an acceptable number or not. They plan on how many of the enemy will die both combatants as well as non combatants as they invade and conquer their enemy. Once in the enemies land there will be mass slaughter and destruction of anything the enemy might be able to use to prolong the war and keep from having to surrender. In other words anything but peaceful.
It is my belief that God never intended there to be no war, killings etc. in his world. That I believe that is how it was in the Garden of Eden and would have remained so if humans had not decided to follow a different path. However humans did choose another path and the result was the first murder as Cain deliberately chooses to kill his brother Abel. That has been our choice to often since even justifying it by saying God told us to go to war.
B. Seek Peace and Pursue It
King David in Psalms says
ââŠSeek Peace and Pursue It.â (Psalm 34:14RSV)
You can have no violence or hostility and still not have shalom. Shalom refers to wholeness, goodness and total satisfaction in our life. It is to be in totally harmony and wholeness with God. Shalom is also a sense of well being and harmony both within ourselves as well as outside of ourselves. It is to be in a state of completeness, where we are at peace, our needs are provided for, and we are healthy and safe. It also is a state of tranquility, prosperity, fullness and rest. We can thus have harmony and peace when there is agitation or discord. On the other hand we can also have harmony and peace even in the midst of war, discord, distress and disharmony. Shalom is to enable us to have vigor and vitality in all dimensions of our life.
Thus we see that while ending all wars is definitely peacemaking in actuality it encompasses much, much more than that. It is the cause of social justice. It is to bring an end to all discrimination, bigotry, fear of others leading to divisions and wars. It is to reach out and help the downtrodden and those marginalized by society and much of the âchurchâ. It is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide shelter for the homeless, and fight injustice wherever it may rise its ugly head and whatever form it takes. It is to change society and our world not by violent wars and revolutions but by learning and living the way of love and peace as taught us by Jesus when he was here physically.
Before heading there though I would like us to envision what this peace would look like. Then I would like to look at the Prophet Micah and see what shalom would actually look like.
âHe shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:3-4)
That, brothers and sisters, is what shalom is and looks like. It is executing biblical justice, which is to restore someone to where they were, prior to when they fell, or to a higher place than they were before.
There will no more weapons of mass destruction, no guns, no more rising up against each other and no more learning war. Instead everyone gets to sin in peace under their own vine or tree with nothing to ever make them afraid again.
Some may think nice vision, nice thought but totally impractical and impossible to have happen. If it were left us to us in our natural state I would probably have to agree because we canât do it through our own efforts. However stay with me because God has a plan which can bring about shalom in all its fullness in our generation and time. Letâs move on and see how it happens.
We have heard from Moses in the Decalogue, King David and the Prophet Micah. I could also have mentioned the Prophet Isaiah who echoes the words of Micah. However that is all Old Testament and we are in the New Testament. We are, in fact, Christians who are supposed to live by and be governed by the words of Jesus Christ. So letâs look and see what he says.
C. âBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called be called sons of Godâ
In Jesus Sermon on the Mount in which he teaches what has come to be known as the Beatitudes he has these words to speak to us.
âBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called be called sons of Godâ (Matthew 59)
In the Greek sons of God is better translated children of God and is gender neutral – everyone can be a peace maker. So who are the peacemakers whom Jesus is talking about here? If we were to write this in Hebrew it would read as âBlessed are the shalom makersâ. Thus peacemaking encompasses everything we have talked about already. However that is just the start Jesus has much more in mind concerning peacemaking. Letâs break it down and see what we find.
Definition of Pacifier:
1. To bend, tame, subdue and to pacify
2. To allow something to stay by either ignoring it, or putting something better in its place, suffer it, or simply withdraw from it.
3. To cover up, expiate, cancel, and to appease. It refers to making atonement, cleansing and disannulling something. It is to bring forgiveness, mercy and pardon thereby reconciling someone back to God.
This is what being a peace keeper is all about, according to Jesus.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells us to have peace with one another. (Mark 9:50) The word used here for peace is the same we saw in the Beatitudes that Jesus used, and is an affirmation of what was said earlier.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to pursue peace with all, and follow after holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) Again the same idea found in the words of Jesus, and if we arenât following peace, we wonât be able to see Jesus.
Some may point out that Jesus says there will be wars, rumors of war, nations rising against nations, famines and pestilence as well as earthquakes prior to his coming. Correct!Â He does in the Gospel of Matthew. (Matthew, Chapter 24)
Many have pointed to these verses as pointing to the second coming of Christ. They claim that this chapter is about a rapture of the saints into heaven. There we will be feasting at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Meanwhile back here on earth God will be pouring out his wrath on those unfortunate enough to be still here.
At the end of seven years Jesus comes back with all his saints, wipes out the antichrist and all those with him at Armageddon, and then establishes his kingdom here on earth. I have several problems with the scenario. However let me state that theology was not developed until the mid 1800âs. Therefore it couldnât have been what Jesus had in mind, or how the first century church would have understood this chapter. So what did the early church believe?
The word Jesus uses here coming can be translated presence. Therefore, when we hear rumors of war, see people trying to deceive us and lead us astray, war among nations, persecution, betrayal we donât have to worry as Jesus presence is with us watching over us, protecting us and guiding us through it all triumphantly.
So whether we live or die is immaterial. Jesus will still be with us, and if we die, welcome us into our new home in heaven. Therefore the chapter is intended to encourage us so when we are tempted to worry, start climbing walls, pull our hair out, go jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, or give up entirely, we need to stop for a moment and take a deep breath, and remember Jesus is still in charge and with us.
With Jesus as our Captain we can sail through anything, and our ship wonât be sinking. We will make it to the other side, without a doubt, if we donât get out of the boat but remain safe and sound in the boat. That is the message that I believe Jesus would give, from Matthew and Luke as well.
If you were raised in Evangelicalism as I, you probably heard about a great battle between good and evil and the forces of the antichrist and the forces of Jesus. At this battle the antichrist is defeated and all those with him destroyed. However, one problem.Â Itâs not anywhere in the Bible. It is a man-made doctrine, based on conjecture and speculation, and thatâs it. The word Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Bible in the Book of Revelation.
âAnd they gathered together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddonâ. . (Revelation 16:16)
Armageddon is taken from two Hebrew words – bar meaning mountain and miggdown meaning rendezvous.
Thus we see that Armageddon will be a rendezvous at a mountain. That is all we know for sure about Armageddon.Â It will be a gathering of people. Anything else beyond that is mere speculation.
In this passage we are not told if there will be a battle there, although that is traditional teaching. However it could be a peace conference, a big meal together, a nuclear holocaust, a natural or man-made disaster or something totally supernatural.Â All are possibilities, given what the text says, which is nothing about what happens at Armageddon itself.
Equally could this be a battle currently being fought in the heavens that will be finished at the second coming of Jesus with him, once and for all, victorious over evil?Â I certainly have no idea and am just suggesting some ideas or food for thought on this matter.
In summation then, the Bible, in context, is silent on Armageddon. You can pick out in various places throughout the Bible verses that might seem to imply a bloody battle called Armageddon, but that is mere speculation. In strict context, except that it will be a gathering at a mountain, nothing else is known.
I have strayed a bit so letâs get back to the subject of peace. We have seen the words of the Old Testament and Jesus on peace. Now letâs look at how early followers of Jesus understood his words as they applied to them for almost the first three to four centuries of church history.
As we shall see they almost unanimously rejected war or service of any kind in the army. They also refused to be a part of any killings, believing that to be a part of the army and participating in its killings rejected what Jesus taught, and therefore no good Christian could participate in them.
The following are some quotations I found on the internet written by early Christians or those who knew them, as to their beliefs on war and peace, and their understanding of Christâs teachings.
According to the Didaskalia, dating it is believed from the second century, and claiming to have been written by the apostles themselves, it was forbidden to accept any money from soldiers, executioners, or any magistrates of the Roman Empire because they were polluted in wars and had shed innocent blood without judgment.
ARISTEIDES says of the Christians: “They appeal to those who wrong them and make them friendly to themselves; they are eager to do good to their enemies; they are mild and conciliatory.”
ARNOBIUS (300 A.D.) – âThe treatise of Arnobius abounds in allusions to the moral iniquity of war. Contrasting Christ with the rulers of the Roman Empire, he asks:
âDid he, claiming royal power for himself, occupy the whole world with fierce legions, and, (of) nations at peace from beginning, destroy and remove some, and compel others to put their necks beneath his yoke and obey him?â ââWhat use is it to the world that there should beâŠgenerals of the greatest experience in warfare, skilled in the capture of cities, (and) soldiers immovable and invincible in cavalry battles or in a fight on foot?â
Arnobius roundly denies that it was any part of the divine purpose that menâs souls, âforgetting that they are from one source, one parent and head, should tear up and break down the right of kinship, overturn their cities, devastate lands in enmityâŠhate one anotherâŠ in a word, all curse, carp at, and rend one another with the biting of savage teeth.â
âAddressing himself to the pagans, he says: âSince WeâŠ(Christians) have received (it) from his (Christâs) teachings and laws, that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, that it is better to endure a wrong than to inflict (it), to shed oneâs own (blood) rather than to stain oneâs hands and conscience with the blood of another, the ungrateful world has long been receiving a benefit from ChristâŠBut if absolutely allâŠwere willing to lend an ear for a little while to his healthful and peaceful decrees, and would not, swollen with pride and arrogance, trust to their own senses rather than to his admonitions, the whole world would long ago have turned the uses of iron to milder works and be living in the softest tranquility, and would have come together in healthy concordâŠâ â(HE) speaks as if abstention from warfare had been the traditional Christian policy ever since the advent of Christ.
CLEMENT – âIn the third century Clement of Alexandria contrasted war-like pagans with the peaceful community of Christians. Clement of Alexandria calls his Christian contemporaries the âFollowers of Peace,â and expressly tells us that âthe followers of peace used none of the implements of war. Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct by violence sinful wrongdoings. For (it is) not those who abstain from evil by compulsion, but those (who abstain) by choice, (that) God crowns. For it is not possible for a man to be good steadily except by his own choice.â
IRENAEUS (180 A.D.) – âFor the Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not how to fight.”
JUSTIN MARTYR (150 A.D.) – âThat the prophecy is fulfilled, you have good reason to believe, for we, who in times past killed one another, do not now fight with our enemies.â26 âWe, who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one-all the world over-changed the instruments of war, the swords into plows and the spears into farming implements, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, (and) the hope which is from Father Himself through the Crucified One.”
These quotes are but a sampling of the dozens I found from the early church fathers. They are universal in their condemnation of war and violence, and showing Christians as people of peace only, who refused to serve in the military or in the Roman government.
They refused baptism and membership in the church to anyone serving in the military or in or for the Roman government. Only after they left the military or government were they allowed to be baptized and become members of the church. If after their baptism they chose to return to the army or to service in the government they would be seen as having renounced their faith and would then be excommunicated. This was how the early Christian acted and believed. So what changed?
In the early 300âs AD a man named Constantine was Emperor of Rome. He wanted to be head of both the Christian Church as well as the Pagan church. He was also looking for a god more powerful than the ones he worshiped. He noted that his father worshiped one god and prospered. So he prayed that the God of his father would reveal himself to him. Consequentially on the night before a great battle Constantine has a vision which was also seen by his army.
According to Constantine, he said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the sign of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, âBy this symbol you will conquer.â He was struck with amazement by the sight, and his whole army witnessed the miracle. He then pondered on what this vision could mean. He fell asleep and in his sleep, the Christ appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies. At dusk the next morning he had his troops make a standard that could be carried before them into battle. Based on this vision Constantine concluded that Jesus had no problem with war. From that point on it became permissible for a Christian to serve in the military. This led to the development of the âJust Warâ theory to support this new revelation.
The Just War theory predates its adoption by the church. It was originally developed by Cicero, a Roman thinker who lived in the century before the birth of Christ. He came up with three rules that had to be meant for a war to be just.
1. There has to be a just cause such as to stop an invasion.
2. There has to be a formal declaration of war by the king or emperor to give the other side a chance to put things right.
3. War must be conducted justly and unarmed civilians should never be attacked.
For our modern age, and for those of us living in America, this presents a few problems, I believe.
1. There has to be a just cause such as to stop an invasion.
The last time congress declared war on anybody was when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of congress on December 8, 1941 to ask for a declaration of war against Japan for her attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii the previous day. Congress approved that request. A few days later, after Germany declared war on us first, congress then declared war on her.
Thus I believe that every war we have been involved in since Korea up to the present time under Cicero Just War Theory have been illegal, since there has been no formal declaration of war, as is required to be justified.
2. There has to be a formal declaration of war by the king or emperor to give the other side a chance to put things right.
To be just, I believe it has to be based on truth. Two of the recent wars we have been involved in do not meet that criterion.
A. Viet Nam
In August 1964 our ships were allegedly attacked by the forces of North Viet Nam. President Lyndon B. Johnson went to congress to ask for permission to take whatever action he felt was necessary to punish North Viet Nam. Congress then passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which President Johnson then used to justify the sending in of American ground troops into South Viet Nam beginning in January 1965.
Only one slight problem, the Gulf of Tonkin attack, by the best evidence available today, never happened. It was manufactured by hawks among Johnson advisors who wanted to escalate the war in South Viet Nam. So they concocted an alleged attack on our ships to convince Johnson to ask for what became the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
The most that can be proven at this point is, yes, shots were fired that night. However by whom, or for what purpose, remains unknown. Probably someone fired a shot for unknown reasons causing other ships to respond thinking they were fighting some imaginary enemy.
B. Iraq War
In 2003 President George W. Bush had UN ambassador Colin Powell go before that body with, what he said was, proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein was planning on using against his neighbors.
As it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction, and Hussein was nothing more than a big mouth. He wanted to be seen as a big shot, as someone important and powerful, but in reality not a threat to anyone.
It has also been shown that the Bush administration had been forewarned by our allies that the man they were getting their information from was an unreliable informant and not to be trusted. That warning was ignored and we invaded Iraq anyways.
It was supposed to be a quick war, and the President even declared mission accomplished. However over 13 years later we are still there, with no plan for ending the war soon, and bringing our troops home permanently.
Also with the overthrow of Hussein we have made matters worse, not better. We have created a vacuum in which ISIS has arisen and a quagmire for ourselves as we try to extricate ourselves from that conflict.
3. War must be conducted justly and unarmed civilians should never be attacked.
As I mentioned earlier according to Cicero to be a just war there could be no attacks on unarmed civilians. One incident from World War II will show that that has been violated.
In August of 1945 the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan wiping out the lives of millions of civilians who were just going about their daily lives presenting no threat to anyone. This is not the place to discuss the pros and cons which lead President Harry Truman to make that decision to bomb but simply to acknowledge it happened.
Many other examples could be given that would show that in most of modern warfare no matter where or by whom they are fought civilians whose only crime may be to live in the line of attack or under a despotic ruler (Hitler, Hussein) are being killed even though they are not combatants. This is in direct violation of Ciceroâs just war theory.
In the next century after Constantine had his vision the Just War Doctrine for Christians began to formulated and codified. There were three main people who are responsible mainly for the development of the Just War Doctrine: St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas and the School of Salamanca.
Saint Augustine of Hippo
Augustine, in general, did not approve of war. He claimed however, while individuals should not resort immediately to violence, God had given to government the sword to the government for good reason according to his understanding of Romans 13:4. Augustine further asserted âThat Christians as a part of government need not be ashamed to protect peace and punish wickedness when forced to do so by a government.”
He further stated that peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Therefore defense of oneâs self or others could be necessary when authorized by legitimate authority. Augustine says
âThey who have waged war in obedience to the divine command or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”
Though Augustine does not break down the conditions necessary for a just war he is the first to originate the phrase in his work The City of God.
âBut, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars.â
Augustine admonishes Christians who are under the rule of a government engaged in an immoral war
âby divine edict, have no choice but to subject themselves to their political masters and [should] seek to ensure that they execute their war-fighting duty as justly as possibleâ.
These words of Saint Augustine of Hippo are the foundation for the just war doctrine.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Nine hundred years after St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas first laid out the conditions under which a war could be justified. According to Thomas there were three standards that had to be meant to qualify as a just war.
1. Just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. Proper Authority is seen as first representing the common good: which is peace for the sake of manâs true end â God.
2. War must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self gain. Thus going to war in behalf of a nationâs interest is not just for example. Just war must be an exercise of power for the sake of restoring some good that has been denied. This would include lost territory, lost goods, punishment for an evil perpetrated by a government, army, or even the civilian populace.
3.Â Peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. An authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.
School of Salamanca
The School of Salamanca expanded on St. Thomas Aquinas understanding of natural law and just war. It saw war as one of the worst evils suffered by humans. The schoolâs adherents believed that war should only be a last resort and only then when necessary to prevent and even greater evil. They believed that diplomatic resolution is always preferable in stopping a war before it gets started even for the more powerful party. To insure these ideals they came up with seven points that could be used in determining whether or not a war was justified.
1. A just war is one in self defense and lasts only as long as there is a reasonable possibility of success.
2. A just war is a preventive war against a tyrant who is about to attack.
3. A just war can be to punish a guilty enemy.
It needs to be noted here that a war is not legitimate or illegitimate based on its original motivation but on a series of additional requirements. They are as follows.
4. In order to be a just war it is necessary that the response be equal with the evil. To use more force than is absolutely necessary would constitute an unjust war.
5. Although governing authorities have the right to declare war that decision alone is not sufficient cause to begin a war. If the people oppose a war, then it is automatically illegitimate. Also the people according to the School of Salamanca have a right to depose a government that is waging or about to wage an unjust war.
6. In order to be a just war once war has begun there are still moral limits governing its actions. There can be no attacking innocents, non combatants, nor any killing of hostages
7. Finally to be a just war it is obligatory to take advantage of all options for dialogue and negotiations before undertaking a war. War is only legitimate as a last resort when all else fails.
Under these doctrines wars of expansion, wars of pillage, wars to convert infidels or pagans and wars for glory are all inherently unjust. This is how the Just War doctrine was originally understood.
Bringing it up to the 21st century I would like to now look at the current Roman Catholic view of the Just War Doctrine.
Roman Catholic Just War Doctrine
The just war doctrine of the Catholic Church lists four strict conditions for âlegitimate defense by military forceâ.
1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.
2. All other means of putting and end to the conflict must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
3. To be a just war there must be serious prospects for success.
4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
The church goes on to elaborate further.
âIf this responsibility justifies the possession of sufficient means to exercise this right to defense, States still have the obligation to do everything possible ‘to ensure that the conditions of peace exist, not only within their own territory but throughout the world.'”
It is important to remember that âit is one thing to wage a war of self-defense; it is quite another to seek to impose domination on another nation. The possession of war potential does not justify the use of force for political or military objectives. Nor does the mere fact that war has unfortunately broken out mean that all is fair between the warring partiesâ.
âThe Charter of the United Nations intends to preserve future generations from war with a prohibition against force to resolve disputes between States. Like most philosophy, it permits legitimate defense and measures to maintain peace. In every case, the charter requires that self-defense must respect the traditional limits of necessity and proportionality. Therefore, engaging in a preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions. International legitimacy for the use of armed force, on the basis of rigorous assessment and with well-founded motivations, can only be given by the decision of a competent body that identifies specific situations as threats to peace and authorizes an intrusion into the sphere of autonomy usually reserved to a State.â
This is the current position of the church on the Just War Doctrine. It is, however, as I mentioned earlier, being reexamined by the Pope and a special commission he has appointed, with a good chance it will be renounced in favor of a doctrine that says war is immoral and never justifiable under any circumstancesâ.
In summation then I see a few things we can draw from all that has been shared here.
First, the Just War Doctrine has no scriptural or biblical basis for itself. It is, in fact, a statement of beliefs by two main persons and a school of men, in part to provide justification for an alleged vision that Constantine and his army had, and a dream that Constantine had.
I have a couple of problems with this.
One, this was supposed to have been such a powerful vision that it inspires him to have a standard made which could be carried in front of his soldiers as they go into battle. This they do, leading them to a great victory, which Constantine attributes to the Christian God. Yet it doesnât change his life one iota, and he doesnât become a Christian until he is on his death bed, and then is baptized by an Arian bishop. Why?
Also, since the Council of Nicaea had condemned Arianism as heresy, then would that make Constantine a heretic and not a Christian? Just a thought for you to think about. At best Constantine was a quasi Christian or one in name only.
Secondly, the scriptures teach us that out of the mouth of two or more witnesses shall every word be established. A man cannot be convicted on the testimony of one person. So where is the second witness? An entire army allegedly saw the vision of the cross above the sun. Where are their testimonies as to what they saw that could corroborate what Constantine claimed happen? As far as I know, they donât exist.
What about some church council that may have looked into the matter and been able to authenticate what actually happened? Again no such records exist.
Perhaps another friend or one of the early church fathers living in that time period could have done an investigation and could verify this story. Again no records of any such investigation ever as far as I know. Instead we are left with the word of one man Constantine. That, both biblically and legally, in a court of law, is inadmissible as evidence.
In summation then, technically, if it were possible to have a war where no human lives were lost, no property destroyed, no mass slaughter or destruction took place then war could be justified. However since none of that applies to most wars, and especially modern wars, then my gut feeling is, all war, as well as killing, is morally wrong and cannot be biblically justified.
As I wrap this up, what is Godâs ultimate plan for the nations? As Christians we believe Jesus will come again and establish his kingdom here on earth. However, why will he do this? The Book of Revelation gives us the answer.
âAnd he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nation.â
Ezekiel has the same vision and says the fruit of the trees are for medicine. (Ezekiel 47:12)
Here we see that Godâs ultimate plan is to heal all nations. As used here to heal means to cure and heal so for the purpose of worship and adoration of God. That is Godâs ultimate plan. It is also what I believe all Christians should be working for and help bring about, Godâs shalom revealed in the visible Christ shining through his people and in the ultimate ushering in of the visible kingdom of God here on earth.
The views expressed here are strictly my own and presented here to show especially what the New Testament and early Christians believed concerning war. It is also presented as we try to discern Godâs leading and will for us as we move forward into the future. It also needs to be corroborated so I therefore present it to you all for your thoughts. Any comments welcomed.
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos