“He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.”–2 Samuel 22:35
Over the centuries most conservative Christian theologians have taught that the existence of a military force can be justified if certain factors are involved. Augustine developed a specific list of reasons to justify warfare in particular, as did Bernard of Clairvaux in his work In Praise of the New Knighthood. This treatise was written in the early part of the 12th century for one of the founders of The Knights Templar, a kinsman of Bernard by the name of Hugh de Payens.
In general there are three phases of war.
First, there is the prelude to war.
Second, there is the conduct of war.
Finally, there is the postlude of war.
What the church has contended for, is that in each phase there should be a moral base line to which all humanity is required to measure up, and stand to support. In the absence of a moral base line, warfare becomes nothing more than bullies pushing one another around for no other reason than ego-gratification, or the love of cruelty.
Some cynics of history contend there is no universal base line of morality, and so there is no just war. Perhaps they are right.
Be that as it may, only one fact is certain: there will be warfare until the nature of mankind is changed. Because there will be war, wise political leaders and Christian leaders should consider the underlying causes of conflict.
When that is done it has been suggested there are three main occasions for war: women, wealth, dominion.
Certainly it is not hard to find illustration of these motives. In Hebrew literature we have King David obtaining his wife Bathsheba by putting her husband Uriah in a wartime military situation to enhance his death.
On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg to expand the borders of Germany. He wanted to dominate Europe and provide breathing space for his people, while confiscating the wealth of the continent. Money was taken from the Jewish people in particular before they were slaughtered in execution of the political agenda known as, “The Final Solution.” There was a Holocaust.
In the Philippines, Japan launched a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The purpose for the attack: imperial domination.
Fighting for women, wealth, or property are not the best of reasons to engage in warfare. There are more noble reasons for armed conflict. Self-defense, and avenging injustice, offers two examples.
Whatever the prelude to war may be, included in the process must be an exhaustion of all means to avoid conflict. War is to be the final arbitrator of disputes, not the first.
But once the decision is made, then there should be an all-out effort to bring the conflict to a settled conclusion so that peace and prosperity can come to the people. The political doctrine of containment, which guided the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War during the 1950-70’s, was an immoral doctrine, because there was no will to win. Containment was chosen over decisive military victory. The ultimate mighty weapons of modern warfare were never used on North Korea, or in Vietnam, and so thousands of lives were squandered needlessly.
When war is decided upon, when military personnel are placed on the field of battle, the conduct of war should be with at least three specific objectives.
The first objective is to defeat the combatants, and only the combatants.
The second objective is to destroy the enemy’s capacity for belligerence, not the enemy as a people.
The third objective is to cease hostile action once the foe has left the field of conflict.
During World War II, and the Korean Conflict, General Douglas MacArthur practiced these limitations scrupulously, and was immensely successful. For example, during WW II MacArthur knew the Japanese were entrenched in the islands of the South Pacific. Rather than fight island by island, MacArthur simply passed many islands by in favor of essential targets. By attacking only the enemy’s main capacity for belligerence, he attacked “where the enemy wasn’t” rather than frontally, and thus not only saved vast casualties on both sides but also significantly shortened the duration of the operations, thus saving money, and other resources, as well as life, and collateral destruction.
David R. Graham has noted, that, “Great [military] captains never attack frontally – that is, at the enemy per se. Great captains always attack the enemy’s supply line, in flank and rear – that is, at the enemy’s capacity for belligerence.” The saving of lives in the midst of the madness of actual warfare is moral.
Finally, as a just war should exhaust all means possible for peace, and when ended should save as many lives as possible, so a just war should be concluded in honor.
Turning attention from the physical to the spiritual realm, it is discovered there is another warfare that rages, not on fields of observation, but within the hearts of men. This war is more deadly than any conflict in the history of mankind, because the consequences endure for eternity.
In spiritual warfare the battle lines are clear, as evil verses good.
In spiritual warfare the contestants are identified, Satan is opposed to God.
In spiritual warfare the main issue is non-controversial, which is the control of the heart.
In spiritual warfare the outcome is non-negotiable, for either a person will go to heaven, or to their own place of separation from God.
In spiritual warfare the solders are drafted first by physical birth, and then by spiritual birth.
In spiritual warfare the weapons of warfare are different. The battle is between those who are carnal, or fleshly, and those who are spiritual. The apostle Paul explains.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:19-25).
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:11-12).
On Ward Christian Soldiers
“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing”.
Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865