Jesus and War -- By: Kenneth M. Gardoski
JMAT 14:1 (Spring 2010) p. 5
Jesus and War
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania
In the 1990s the “What Would Jesus Do” phenomenon took America by storm. Originally appearing in Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book In His Steps, the phrase (now shortened to the acronym WWJD) represented the call of a new generation to emulate Jesus in all of life.1 The practice of seeking Jesus’ opinion on matters far outdates the WWJD bracelet craze or even Sheldon’s famous book. Christians have been asking what Jesus would (or did) do for centuries. This is actually a good question for theology. For example, on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, we can marshal good support to show just how high Jesus’ view of Scripture was on these important subjects. As another example, if a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and the historicity of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and Jonah in the big fish were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for us.
When it comes to the subject of war, scholars of all stripes likewise look to the words and deeds of Jesus to formulate and defend their position. This is not a bad thing. However, all too often when pondering Jesus and war people immediately—and sometimes exclusively—quote “blessed are the peacemakers” and “turn the other cheek.” Now don’t get me wrong; I am not denigrating these profound and challenging teachings of Jesus, although it is important we interpret them correctly in their context. But we must look wider even within the Gospels to get the full picture. We must also look beyond the Gospels, for they pertain to Jesus’ first coming and his behavior and teaching which its purposes required. We need to look at the whole NT
JMAT 14:1 (Spring 2010) p. 6
where we will find more relevant passages on the subject. Finally, we even should go back to—or better yet start in—the OT to find Messianic passages that relate to the subject. All of these passages—OT, Gospels, rest of the NT—are required if we want to get a complete and full-orbed view of Jesus and war in Scripture.
Examination Of Passages
With that said, in the following pages I will examine a number of relevant passages in their canonical order. I will start with just a sampling of some key OT texts, move on to consider the Gospels, and finish with several passages from the rest of the NT. Then I will analyze the two main Christian positions on war and how they use scriptural information about Jesus to support their views. I will conclude that while Jesus was personally nonviolent...
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