Tuesday, September 22, 2009

War is Central to the Gospel

I've added a new poll to my sidebar: Is War Wrong?

For the past couple of years I've been thinking a lot about the role of violence and war in the context of Scripture and the Gospel of Christ. I've read some books and plan to continue to read. What I have noticed in my thinking and living is that how people answer this question directly affects their understanding of eschatology and, subsequently, it affects the way they live, vote, pray, and teach. It directly changes the way we talk about the Bible and the way we explain and understand the Gospel.

For example, if you believe that war is not only necessary but it is indeed part of God's plan, i.e. God will one day come back and wage war against the heathens and/or the non-believers, then you will not logically be inclined to hope that war might one day end or that peace (absence of war) is possible. Therefore it wouldn't be productive for you to vote for someone who will work for peace, pray for war to cease, or teach that war is part of the curse of sin. You will also be disinclined to believe in a gospel that either ends war or enacts salvation within history. Your gospel will be completely different from that of someone who believes that loving our enemies means refraining from killing them. Your gospel may sound quite the opposite of that of someone who believes that salvation includes the end of suffering (including the suffering which comes from war) within history.

Thus, through my reading and thinking I have discovered that war--how we conceive of it ethically and theologically--is central to the gospel if we are to follow our logic as far as it will take us. What we think about war either defines our gospel or our gospel defines how we think about war.

My suggestion, as always, is to start with the gospel. Ask yourself, "what kind of gospel do I believe in? What kind of world does God want to create? Is the Kingdom of God here, within history, or does it reside somewhere far away so that we must eventually travel there upon death? What did Jesus do when he died on the cross?" Your answer will determine the way you think about the future and it will change the way you think about war... or it will at least give you insight as to why you think the way you do about war and violence.

2 comments:

Rudy said...

Great post. I agree that the recurring issue or better yet, source issue, with one's understanding of War comes directly from one's understanding of eschatology. I will not begin a defense for or against any position here. However, what one believes (as you stated) about what God is (or is not, or has already) going to do in the future to "all the nations" will directly influence their current understanding, support, or rejection of War.

The most common view amongst those who see a God and gospel that proclaim a violent War as the end were looking forward to is summed up in this statement: I hate war. It is horrible and I wish we would have to do it. But we can't avoid it and we must participate in it when it suits us. After all we only want to engage in War to further human rights and democracy.

If your understanding (and in my opinion better use of hermeneutic principles) sees a different future than our Big Brother coming back to kick everyone's keister, then your efforts, understanding, and opinion will change in regards to war. As you said, "your gospel will be different." Then again... I could be wrong and we're all in for chaos!

WES ELLIS said...

Rudy,
Good thoughts. I think you summed it up. I happen to think war is just flat wrong... it doesn't fit with my belief that Christ has defeated death and It's hard for me to understand and accept people who see things differently than I do but the beginning of a good dialogue is validating and identifying the source of our opinions.
-Wes