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From: Robin (
Subject: Is war acceptable
Date: February 5, 2003 at 5:29 pm PST

In Reply to: Question posted by Leo on February 5, 2003 at 12:17 pm:

in the Bible? I believe that if you look closely at the Bible, you find several views of war. You find the notion of the "holy war" in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament we read that Joshuah lead the people of Israel into battle against various nations that occupied the land of Canaan. God is seen as directing this war. In the Apocrypha the Jews rise in a war of liberation against their Greek conquerors under the leadership of Joseph Macabbeas. The turn to God for help and God gives them the victory. The lesson that can be drawn from the stories of Joshua and Joseph Macabbeas is not the the God of the Bible is a God of war but in order for those whom God has chosen as his people to be victorius in battle, they must obey God and be faithful to him. This themes of obedience and faithfulness dominates in the Biblical accounts of the various wars of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. When the Jews turned to human allies, they were defeated, even sent into captivity. When they trusted in the Lord, they were victorious and were delivered from captivity. You also see in the Bible invading armies, military defeat, and captivity in a foreign land presented as the consequence of the faithlessness of Judah and Israel to God and disobedience to his commandments. We are told that God extends his protection to those who serve him. Those who turn to other gods loose that protection. In the New Testament Jesus speaks of wars and rumours of wars preceding his second coming. He, however, is not advocating war. He himself taught that those who live by the sword die by the sword. Throughout his ministry he resisted attempts to make him the military leader of a rebellion against Rome. Many Jews of the days of Jesus' flesh believed that the Messiah would lead the Jews to victory against the Roman forces occupying Jerusalem and Palestine. Jesus refused to be fitted into this mold. When Jesus spoke of bringing a sword between members of a family, he was speaking figuratively. The sword represented the division that he would cause in families over him. Shortly before his arrest did he command his disciples to arm themselves but only to fulfill a prophecy. When the disciples produced two swords, he declared that these swords were enough. When Simon Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, who was with the party that came to arrest Jesus, Jesus restored the ear to the injured man and ordered Simon peter to put away the sword. Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek when someone struck them. If a Roman soldier ordered them to pick up a burden and carry it, Jesus instructed his disciples to carry the burden an extra mile. Even though he became angry with the money changers and vendors of sacrificial animals in the courts of the Temple and drove them out with a knotted cord, he himself did not contenance violence. Indeed his actions in the courts of the Temple were out of character for him. The Gospels tell us that it was zeal for God's house that caused him to react this way. Jesus' teachings and example has led a number of Christian groups such as the Mennonites and the Quakers to adopt pacificism. The war against Afghanistan was justified in Christian circles on the basis that the United States was exercising the sword of the magistrate in punishing a crime and not all Christians agreed with this view. The idea that force is at times appropriate in punishing a crime or preserving or restoring the peace of a nation comes from the writings of Paul. It at best has limited application. In the 20th Century the United States generally avoided going to war unless it was justified--the notion of a "just war." Repeated attacks on American shipping was seen as justification for American involvement in World War I and the attack on American soil at Pearl Harbour as justification for American involvement in World War II. Does such justification exist for planned campaign against Iraq? George W.'s father believed that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait justified US military intervention. The grounds for military intervention in Iraq today are not as clear.

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