The Evangelical And War -- By: William E. Nix

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 13:3 (Summer 1970)
Article: The Evangelical And War
Author: William E. Nix


The Evangelical And War

William E. Nix*

It is quite obvious to the knowledgeable Christian of the twentieth century that the Old and New Testaments place great stress on social ethics, but the practical application of this emphasis has resulted in a morass of confusing and even contradictory claims by leading spokesmen in the church. The problem of war exemplifies these divergent claims in a way unmatched by any other social issue.1 While the particular problem of Vietnam is of vital interest to the Christian community, the present study will concern itself with the broader problem of war in general. An attempt will be made to determine whether the conflicting claims for Christian behavior are based upon the teachings of Scripture or upon personal prejudices growing out of vested interests or the misapplication of exegetical principles. This study will look into the scriptural teachings on the subject of believers and war in an attempt to clear the smog-filled air and to cast more light than heat upon the subject.

It is the very advancement of scientific and technological innovation which has made the horrendous results of war so observable to modern society. The countless constructive discoveries and innovations—such as sulfa drugs, penicillin, radar, food packaging and preservation, television, and the like—which have led men beyond the frontiers of space, have been accompanied by their destructive counterparts. The very concept of “total war” is barely over a century old, and the “technical surprise” of World War I has been followed by additional devices of destruction created during and since World War II. Buzz bombs, block busters, incendiaries, saturation bombings, precision bombing, napalm, nuclear weaponry and a host of sophisticated missiles have threatened man’s very existence, and have underlined the urgency for making at-

*Assistant Professor of History, Trinity College, Deerfield, and Ph.D. candidate at University of Oklahoma.

tempts to discover the immediate as well as the long-range effects of war.2

The transformation of warfare during the past century has extended the problem of participation in war from active “involvement” to include those who make “support” contributions. Thus, scientists and technicians have become as involved in modern war as those who actually “press the buttons.” Engineers, researchers and others have come to realize that they share in the moral implications of the application of their work as do the young men and women who actively serve in the military forces of their country.

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