As the knowledge of God covers the earth, the kingdom of God expands and more of the earth is converted to Christianity, peace and war will become a thing of the past. (Isaiah 2:4) (Isaiah 9:7) Until then, a policy on the use of force is necessary.
Force is necessary to restrain evil, but should only be used as a last resort and then only in full awareness of every nation’s responsibility to fulfill the vision of a world in which there will be no war.
Consequently, Christians should not mock non-Christians who urge others to “visualize world peace.” It is only their means, not their goal, which is naive.
Pacifism as a policy is naive and can be disastrous. To say a nation should never go to war would be to give free reign to the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, who are not restrained by such ethics.
The other extreme, however, is equally dangerous. Because a desirable end can be obtained by war does not always make war right. No Christian should take pride in being referred to as a hawk.
In between these two extremes one finds just war theory, first articulated by Augustine, refined by Aquinas and fiddled with by others in between and since. There are different variations of just war theory, but it usually consists of 3-5 criteria for determining whether the war is just.
When considering military action through a Kingdom lens though, it is not enough to determine whether a war is just. A war may be just and not promote the purposes of the kingdom of God. A war may be just and not be God’s will.
Egypt is a timely example. One could argue military intervention in support of the recent Egyptian revolution was just, but another question should have been asked before taking action: Will military intervention advance or hinder the kingdom of God?
Although the final chapter on the Egyptian revolution has not been written, it certainly appears Christians were treated better under the Mubarak regime than they have been since. Since Mubarak’s ouster, there has been no shortage of stories of churches being looted and burned and Christians murdered.
So, military action must not only be evaluated in terms of whether it is just but also whether it promotes the purposes of the kingdom of God, and it must always be tempered by the hope that King Jesus is transforming a world in which nations will eventually beat their swords into plowshares.
In the next post I will conclude this series. GS