Six Moral Requirements for War
Russia is invading Ukraine by land, air and sea. A nation of over 43 million is being attacked without provocation, in the largest attack by one country against another since World War II.
As Christians how should we think about war, invasions, defense departments, and retaliation?
First, in a fallen world, Christians are not surprised or shocked by war and fighting. The half-brother of the Lord Jesus said,
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." -James 4:1-2
But like most ethical dilemmas Christians face, how we interpret the Scriptures is key. Should we adopt the ethic of the Canaanite wars, under the Theocracy, like Israel waged? Is that continuity? Or, does the Old Testament display a God of war and the New Testament a God of love and peace? Is there more discontinuity?
Historically, there have been four basic views of war by Christians.
Non-Resistance: This view sees war as essentially evil and should not be participated in as a believer. However, a Christian can participate as a non-combatant. (e.g. Hacksaw Ridge)
Pacifism: Christians should see as part of their mission the desire for all of society to lay down their arms. Christians should not participate in the military in any way, including being a non-combatant.
Just War: Christians should have a sense of obligation to participate in wars that are just and in those wars that will ultimately result in justice and peace.
Preventative War: Christians should eagerly participate in skirmishes, "cold-wars" or minor battles that prevent and correct injustices. These may be "pre-war" engagements that involve hostilities for the greater, future good. A motto for this position might be "peace through strength." 1
(War: Four Christian Views, Robert G. Clause)
The central Bible passage we should consider is Romans 13:3-4
"FOR RULERS ARE NOT A TERROR TO GOOD CONDUCT, BUT TO BAD. DO YOU WANT TO BE UNAFRAID OF THE AUTHORITY? DO WHAT IS GOOD, AND YOU WILL HAVE ITS APPROVAL. FOR IT IS GOD’S SERVANT FOR YOUR GOOD. BUT IF YOU DO WRONG, BE AFRAID, BECAUSE IT DOES NOT CARRY THE SWORD FOR NO REASON. FOR IT IS GOD’S SERVANT, AN AVENGER THAT BRINGS WRATH ON THE ONE WHO DOES WRONG."
The plain meaning of this central text teaches that human government is established by God and endowed with the "power of the sword" to exact punishment on wrongdoers. There's obviously an individual, citizen application from this Scripture. There is also a more transcendent, application of the "power of the state" to protect its citizen's and promote justice worldwide.
Of the four views, the third view of "Just War" seems to fit best with the Romans 13:3-4 passage. The Just War theory has been a leading view for Christian leaders throughout the past centuries.
Augustine understood this passage to be teaching about warring justly saying,
"We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace." -Augustine
JUS AD BELLUM ( "Right to War")
"Jus ad bellum" is Latin for the conditions of just war. There have been six moral requirements suggested to use as an ethical sieve for a "just war." These are helpful principles for us to weigh in Biblical discernment.
JUST CAUSE: There must be good, ethical reasons for going to war. Those would include protecting the innocent, self-defense, preventing genocide, or helping to restore human rights that have been stolen.
PROPORTIONATE CAUSE: This is a pragmatic test. Will going to war cause more harm, death, and suffering that not?
RIGHTEOUS MOTIVES: War should be to prevent evil, punish wrongdoers and protect the innocent. Nationalism and/or revenge do not meet the standard of just intentions.
SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY: Romans 13:3-4 gives the "power of the sword" to the State, not the individual. Does a country have the wherewithal to deal in a punitive and preventative way an evil regime?
REASONABLE CHANCE OF SUCCESS: This is connected with the previous point. Can a state punish another country that is committing atrocities and be successful? Or will their attempts bring more pain and suffering?
LAST RESORT: War means bloodshed and death. Have all diplomatic and peaceful efforts been exhausted? 2
The above, traditional filter for Christians who believe in the "just war theory" will be a good tool as we pray for our POTUS, defense leaders, our military and Ukraine. As Christians we understand that in a fallen world, there will be "wars and rumors of wars." I believe we justly owe fellow image-bearers, like the Ukrainians every possible assistance that survives the above "just war" sieve. I'm not suggesting an official "declaration of war" by the US, or that US troops should be placed in Ukraine. But, are we using the full strength of cyber, economic, and other military elements other than "boots on the ground" to apply real pain and unrelenting pressure on Russia? Knowing the inevitable result of this unprovoked invasion, what are we doing to prepare for the imminent humanitarian crisis? In 1994 the US encouraged Ukraine to give up their nuclear capabilities in exchange for the promise that we would have their backs? Do the Ukrainians believe that we have their backs right now?
"You do not wait for a war to look at the problem of evil, war is simply the problem of evil writ large"-Samuel Shoemaker
----1 Clouse. Robert. G. War: Four Christian Views
----2 Carter, Joe. ISIS, Just Warfare and the 30 Percent Rule