A few days ago Brother Dave Miller presented, what I thought, a very good article on the recent actions of President Trump and the response to Syria’s chemical attack on its own people. His ultimate conclusion was that he saw the argument from both sides of the perspective, and that there isn’t a clear cut, right/wrong answer, especially with a subject like war and conflict. Unfortunately, as has happened on too many occasions, people used the comment section to go from healthy, constructive dialogue to name calling, baiting, and just plain hateful, non-Christian jargon. [Last couple sentences of this paragraph removed by editor.]
One of the things I didn’t see in any of the comments (and I’ll readily admit, after the descent into hatefulness I went to scanning instead of reading) was the Southern Baptist Doctrinal Response to war. Let me share it with you. Article XVI of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message read, copied and pasted:
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war. The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Verses supporting this position are listed: Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.
The first theological tidbit we receive from the Baptist Faith and Message is that “all Christians should seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness.” We serve the Prince of Peace. Christ’s teaching did overwhelmingly support the idea that we are called to live in peace among our fellow man. As such, “in accordance with His spirit and teachings, we should do all in our power to put an end to war.”
The United States has, for many years, tried to live peaceably with Syria, its leadership and people. We have not sought war. We have not threatened Syria with war. The only “threats” levied against this, and a few other nations, is that you must treat your own people with basic human dignity. In Article III of the Baptist Faith and Message, the very last line, we read: “The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.” The Syrian government, with Bashar al-Assad at the helm, has not demonstrated to its own citizens the respect as human beings they are due.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. Yet, how can that remedy be applied when those in charge make it a personal agenda to drive the Gospel from their land. Can we, as Christians and as Southern Baptists, treat al-Assad as we would the leaders of other nations who are more receptive of the Gospel? While we should pray for world peace and the reign of the Prince of Peace, I don’t think we can hope or expect peace from a man and a regime so bent on disregarding human life and antagonizing the world.
There is an old Latin phrase I’ve heard many of my Christian veterans quote: si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. You might be surprised, but this phrase has some Biblical roots. When God called Joshua to lead Israel into the promised land, the command was to wipe away the inhabitants from the face of the earth. This wasn’t some unwarranted genocide God was commanding. God knew, and the proof is in the result, if Israel let any of the pagan nations remain then they would be tempted and fall away from worshipping God. Over and over throughout the Old Testament we see that God instructs judges, prophets and kings to prepare for war. Behind every command for war was the desire for peace. While Christ does teach us to live in peace together, this command first relates to Christians living with Christians. It is impossible to live in peace with someone who hates you and seeks to destroy you. This is why we will never see a lasting peace in the Middle East until the reign of the Prince of Peace.
In their study guide of the Baptist Faith and Message, Charles Kelly, Jr., Richard Land, and R. Albert Mohler, Jr. dig deeper into the Baptist belief about war and peace. Pacifism is the belief that all conflict is sinful and must be avoided. The central problem with pacifism, a minority position in Christian history, is the implication that all uses of force and strength are morally wrong and that Christians must renounce all uses of arms, even to protect others. At the other extreme, Christians must not love war or glory in armed conflict. Ultimately, there are 3 Biblical qualifications for war: it must have a just cause, it must be employed with just intentions, and it must be a last resort.
From a Christian perspective, there is no greater cause than to tell others about Jesus. How can we tell them about the Lord if sycophants are killing them. For those of you who keep saying that Donald Trump should act in the best interest of America, I say that America was built on the premise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How can we as a country stand idly by while other are being robbed of the very basic core human liberties. We are presented with a just cause to take up conflict.
Why did President Trump use a military strike on Syria? His own response, “because they killed innocent people, innocent babies and children, with chemical weapons.” Reaffirming, both as a Christian principle and as an American principle, the belief in life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, to strike a dictatorial paranoid regime who blatantly kills the innocent is enough reason to employ military tactics. So far two of the three Biblical qualifications for war are met.
The final cause for justified war is that it is a last result. I believe that has been met too. The past administration, very ineffectively, gave warning after warning after warning, but each time those warning were dismissed and each time that past administration lacked the courage and fortitude to back up their warnings. A new administration doesn’t mean a new slate. President Trump picks up where President Obama left off. The warning stand. The threat of action stands. Other global entities are either to timid to do anything (the United Nations), to invested in this genocidal regime (the Russians), or just don’t care (a whole lot of others). Every possible avenue of peace has been attempted and the result is nearly 1/2 million dead and over 7.5 million displaced. With last weeks chemical attacks on innocent civilians, the line was crossed.
I believe in peace. I pray for peace. However, theological realism shows us that true peace cannot exist until the Prince of Peace returns. Therefore, we must take extraordinary methods to accomplish peace. Sometimes those methods mean war. This time those efforts mean war. Bashar al-Assad must be removed from power. We must learn from past mistakes and prevent Islamic extremism from being the new face of the Syrian government. Ultimately, we must protect the life of the innocent. Show them Christian love. Show them their lives mean something. Protect them from evil!