Renewals response to the ethics of War &, the bombing of civilians.:

You may not agree with what I am about to say, but expand, enlarge and inform your perspective by reading it. The lazy response is to say war is never right.  For those who love renewal, mercy, grace and love, the question remains‘ how do we apply the higher values of renewal, kindness and mercy to war’?

“Every act has a moral consequence”  for example;

I may not kill a man but if I falsely slander him, I remove that quality of life he would otherwise enjoy, a good name.  Thus for the Christian in renewal  there are degrees of murder, a kind of degradation of the individual that those in love with God do not want to be party to. Murder is not an act that I may have consciously extended to such an innocuous thing as slander. But appealing to the judge for justice is a good thing in Christ’s theology so that it might be awarded, the result of not settling disputes according to Christ is that the individual might lose their liberty (Matthew 5:23–26).

But what about war, where does it fit into the morality  of renewal or the Pentecostal,  charismatic and Christian perspective of restoration, healing, reconciliation and liberty? What stance should people who care about the love of their fellow man take?

Does unprovoked aggression allow for self defense?  Can a state retaliate with lethal force and be morally justified?

” War is the state applying what it considers to be justice.”

War is a determination by the state that death is necessary to impose on another nation or people to facilitate a nobler cause. War has been met with one of three responses from Christians throughout  history.

The Christian response to war

One response is blind and uncritical obedience to the state, another is more of a conscientious objection, in which war is seen as bad whatever the reason. In this model Christians have denied that the state should ever go to war seeking to impose passivity on the state. The third response is a more critically aware response which, whilst recognising the evil of wars, accepts that the state has a right to “wield the sword”, (Eze 32:11-12) but only to the extent that it pursues what is understood as the just war, or a war that repulses an aggressor. Nevertheless even in this the Christian understands that the state must be held to account for every conflict and honestly demonstrate the necessity.

in the human mind there are degrees of sin. One man’s terrorist we are told is another man’s freedom fighter.  Only critical questions can ultimately tease out which is which? Who holds the moral high ground and who is the cruel aggressor.

In recent times a more modern and nuanced approach to this third view has been developed called the “the crusade or preventive war theory,” a just war may in a modern more complex world no longer be obvious, there are other kinds of wars which may not be as obvious as a defensive one. Wars in pursuit of “a just cause” to put right wrongs done such as wars of liberation from oppressors. In this model the state acts like a policeman, intervening against obvious evil acts, the state refusing to act would itself be an evil act of negligence.[1]

How can we discern which is which?

Of course when we ask questions we have to supply answers, is the killing of innocents ever justified morally, the answer to that question is a universal no! Regardless of the cause. The targeting of innocent civilians as the objective in war is always a serious crime and betrays a fundamental moral flaw. It is the stuff of Genocide as demonstrated with Hitler and Pol Pot. Questions then must be asked for with it comes the nuanced answer and wisdom required to understand who is the aggressor and who is the peacemaker.  The lazy theologian refuses to as questions for he does not want to live with the awkward answers.

Theologically can we grade war by degrees in this way?

Should we not just join the pacifist and turn the other cheek and avoid war at all costs? No! But why? it is clear that there are degrees of sin in scripture, even the Judaic law accounts for what we would term first degree and second degree murder.   Jesus speaks of those who will receive many stripes and those who will receive few (Luke 12:46-48).[2]  IF degrees of sin demands degrees of justice and If the state then has the right to wield the sword degrees of war would logically not be a leap to far and could be clearly argued to be justified and supported in scripture.

I remember being asked a long time ago if it was right for Christian policemen to carry a gun, my response? I would rather find myself being stared at down the barrel of a gun by a christen policeman than any other kind. They are subject to higher laws of morality than can be imposed  by the state. In all moral conflict the underlining question is who has the ultimate authority, for the Christian that is God. Ethics from a Christian point of view then stems from how much we love God and attendant to this is the question of how much we love our fellow man. Real love is to understand Gods attitudes towards conflict and justice. The scriptures being the arbitrator of his views (2 Timothy 3:16–17).[3] Every moral framework has a derived authority behind it. The Christian’s ultimate authority is Christ. The Muslims Allah. The committed sometimes derogatorily called “fundamentalist” believes implicitly in that ultimate authority, the less committed waveringly so.  For  the secular or philosophic ethical authority is derived from Man.[4]

A clear response.

For those who love renewal, mercy, grace and love, who look for every opportunity to help their fellow man regardless of race, culture,  or religion, who want to see humanity healed and delivered,  the question remains how do we apply the higher values of renewal, kindness and mercy to war?  The answer must be clear, to protect the innocent, from cruel and wicked oppressors, believers calling upon those who lead us to intervene must always be morally right. To liberate a people oppressed and denied freedom is surely the morally high ground. There may be unfortunate, sad and heartbreaking outcomes, but if love, mercy and kindness are the motivating factor, then we cannot sit back and watch without action the oppression of people groups. War in that context with all it’s attendant evils can sometimes be the only option. BUT; Anyone supporting an aggressor who targets civilians shares in that aggressors wickedness, for there is no just cause that can ever justify killing innocent people as the key goal and aim. Where wicked aggression exists, the pacifist clearly betrays innocent blood for he refuses to come to the aid of the victim. He crosses the road when he sees the innocent lying bruised and broken, he shuts his eyes when he sees the young woman being assaulted by an abusive partner. The propagandist that ignores aggression against innocents or equates them as moral equivalents to other acts of  aggression in war perpetuates injustice for they confuse the observer, camouflage truth  and give ammunition to the perpetrator.

Genuine love cannot in this age avoid war.



[1] Feinberg, J. S., & Feinberg, P. D. (1993). Ethics for a Brave new world (367). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Sproul, R. (1996). Following Christ. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[3] Manser, M. H. (1999). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[4] Sproul, R. (1996). Following Christ. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

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Categories: The Word