The Gospel and War -- By: Mark D. Liederbach
FM 22:1 (Fall 2004) p. 84
The Gospel and War
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27588
If the just war theory did not already exist, Christians would have to invent it.
—Paul Ramsey, The Just War
The gospel and war: It is such a strange juxtaposition of words. “Gospel” calls to mind visions of love and life, whereas “war” conjures up pictures of destruction and death. Yet Scripture clearly connects the two. The best example is in Eph. 6:10–20. In this passage the Apostle Paul reminds the believer that a Christian’s real struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul is at pains to stress that behind the scene of all experience an unseen battle rages for the human soul. The reality of this “spiritual battle” motivates Paul to ask for prayer on his behalf “that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”1
Does Paul’s discussion about this spiritual battle, then, have any relevance to the ethics of flesh and blood war? Absolutely! This passage makes crystal clear that at all times—even when scripturally based principles such as justice and/or neighbor love may demand engagement in the fleshly battles and warfare—the good news of Jesus Christ must be at the center of the discussion. The only real hope for lasting peace is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While the flesh and blood wars of this world are waged with guns or bombs, the ultimate weapons of the Christian soldier engaged in the ultimate war are the Word of God and prayer. If, then, there is a moral obligation to stand for justice or defend one’s neighbor, it ought never steal one’s attention away from the goal of the spiritual war.
The purpose of this paper is to pursue the question, “How should concern for the Great Commission temper a Christian’s thinking about flesh-and-blood war?” As such it will investigate the link between the gospel and war and then explore how concern for gospel should drive one’s thinking and behavior on both the moral (temporal, flesh and blood) and religious (eternal, spiritual) planes of life.2 To accomplish this task, I will first argue that a proper understanding of the gospel will, at times, rightly compel a Christian to consider, and if necessary
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