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Friday, June 3, 2016

Are All Wars Old Wars?

In his latest article on war and the Gospel, Russell Moore (click here for a bio) attempts to resolve some conflicts many Christians experience (click here for the article). On the one hand, we see God using war in the Old Testament and Paul clearly states, in Romans 13, that it is by God's ordination that the state must  'bear the sword' to punish those who do evil.

On the other hand, the Bible does, according to Moore, teach a certain kind of pacifism to Christians as individuals and to the Church.

Thus, Moore attempts to resolve this conflict and he does so partially. He notes that both pacificsm and militarism are utopian. And just because he isn't a pacificist, he warns us against both having too much faith in the UN and in 'perpetual war.' But what I would like to focus on here is the self-limiting approach Moore takes to this subject. For in trying to deal with a Christian perspective of war, Moore's references to war, the military, and Christian thought on the subject are all from the distant past. There is no reference to any modern sources to see if they contain seeds of Biblical truth. There is no reference to how modern wars inflict a great deal of civilian casualties. There is no reference to the presence and eventual proliferation of WMDs and thus, there is no reference to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto (click here) that clearly says that because of WMDs, just nuclear weapons in their day, we have a choice between war and the survival of human race. Nor is there a reference to the unjust use of wars and interventions by all of its participants including the US. The lack of modern day references is not just a weakness in his article here, it is a weakness that permeates much of Christian writings on the topics of today. We are stuck in our past with answers to questions that have never been faced before. 

All of this reminds me of a quote by Henri Bouillard cited by Gustavo Gutiérrez who was a founder of Liberation Theology. We should note that agreeing with this quote does not necessitate that one must agree with everything or even most of the things said by either Bouillard or Gutiérrez. Bouillard said the following:
A theology which is not up-to-date is a false theology 1

 Certainly, conservative Christians must approach accepting this statement with much caution. For it is not Biblical to redefine the Gospel as Gutiérrez did. And yet, Gutiérrez makes an excellent observation in pointing out that as time goes on, people do face new problems, issues, and circumstances that were not faced by those who lived in Biblical and early church times. Thus, it is mandated that we do engage in writing new theology. But we do so to keep the Scriptures relevant to the people living today. We don't do new theology in an effort to glorify the evolution of how man defines God.

To not engage in new theological thought, with the caveat that we do not redefine who God is and what the Gospel says, denies the differences in historical context and situations between the past and the present. And thus, we end up running the risk of putting our foot into someone else's shoe. And when we do this, we are more likely to promote a false theology even when we have not redefined the essentials of the faith.

If we are going to make the Christian faith relevant and robust to people today, yes, we must guard against redefining the Gospel, but we must engage in the writing of new theology as people's issues, questions, and circumstances change over time. And by failing to interact with new information and a new setting, despite the positive contributions Moore makes regarding God's Word and war, in the end he has unnecessarily increased his chances of passing on some false theological perspectives on how Christians should view war today.


References

  1. cited by Gustavo Gutiérrez in A Theology Of Liberation, 15th edition, pg10, Orbis Books



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