Monday, October 17, 2005

Bishops Apologize for War

Mark Tooley of the Weekly Standard covers a recent document released by bishops of the Anglican Church, in short, condemning the war, the American response to it, the support of evangelical Christians for it, and calls for evangelical Christians to apologize to the Muslim community for it. The full text is here, but honestly, why would you want to read that? It's 100 freaking pages long and full of some of the strangest liberal/"Christian" reasonings you can find.

The entire subject gives me pause, though. My pastor commented to me once that American Christians would have 3 things to answer for before God. I only remember two of them, those being our materialism and our militarism. The latter, being the relevant aspect, causes me to wonder.

To what end should Christians accept war and military action? Should we support it as a governmental tool but deny it personally? There's no easy answer to be found in the scriptures. None of it was ever addressed to governments, and since the writers of the New Testament were writing to people who held no political authority, such concepts simply don't appear. As such, we have to try to interpret the authoritative source (and that always leads to problems).

Jesus speaks of turning the other cheek and loving one's enemies. This would seem to deny any sort of military solution if Christians took this as a governmental mandate. On the other hand, the Bible talks much about seeking justice, helping those who cannot help themselves, and punishing the wicked. It certainly would seem to be in the interests of justice to, say, depose Saddam Hussein. Additionally, it would give the Gospel more opportunity to spread (well, some might debate that point). On the other hand, "Vengeance is mine" sayeth the Lord. Nothing we can do to someone else here on Earth will compare to their true reward when they meet up with the Lord and he says, "Away from me, I never knew you."

It would be unfair to simply wipe our hands of it and say, "Well, it doesn't matter what I think, I don't make such decisions, the government will simply do what it wants, it's an imperfect world so we have to choose the lesser of two evils, etc." The world is different since Paul wrote his letters, and only a small amount of the vast library of human needs and conflicts were addressed in scriptures. Responsibility for Christians is to further develop the theology here, applying what we know already to what today's situations bring us, and attempt to find a God-glorifying path.

The bottom line is simply that I don't have the answers here. I can tell you that I support American military action in the Middle East (for now), but I certainly can't tell you whether or not that's a Godly response. If it isn't, then Christians certainly ought to hold themselves accountable for our support of war. But in the meantime, the Anglican Church would do better to discuss the theology of the issue, rather than act in such a political fashion.


Christine said...

I honestly wonder if we can ever truly know the theology of whether or not a specific war is right. I mean, in the OT, God out and out TOLD the Israelites to it seems a bit more hazy. Then again, I don't exactly keep up on all the politics of war like I should.

Hal said...

And therein lies the problem. The New Testament just doesn't offer any guidance on warfare mentality. It doesn't offer any guidance on governmental morality. Everything the New Testament offers is about personal responsibility and the responsibility of the church.

Can we make inferences from personal responsibilities to governmental responsibilities? Sure. Can we make comparisons between Old Testament Israel and present-day governments? Absolutely. Will such work yield any conclusions of merit? Doubtful. Would any of it be better than an educated guess?