I’ve been reading a lot of Ben Witherington’s blog. He has a fantastic mind, and has a fantastic understanding of Scripture. Definitely one of the better biblical scholars out there.
However, he seems to be very strong against the concept of war. Maybe a misunderstand him, but he seems to be against it in all cases, believe that Christians should always refuse to participate in war. I’m not sure if this holds water.
Now, it is very true that God doesn’t like war. War is not really seen as positive, and this is clearest seen in the New Testament, which speaks of peace and love, and speaks of war as demonstration of the depravity of humanity, and signs for the coming of the end of all things. War is a bad thing, and should never be desired.
But a war can also be a necessary thing. To say that war is a bad thing does not mean that a particular war is the wrong thing to do, or participate in. It is very clear in the Old Testament that God does approve of war when the situation calls for it. War can be a very necessary to protect yourself from hostile and oppressive forces. It is not righteous to be idle when the unrighteous abuse the weak. Sometimes you need to fight.
I’ve heard the argument, though, that we are New Testament believers. Even if there is war in the Old Testament, that doesn’t mean that we should be for it now, since we are supposed to be living out the New Testament. To that, I have a few things to say.
First, I’m not talking about be for war, but recognizing that it is, at times, a necessary evil.
Second, I don't believe in the strong dialectic between the Old and New Testament anyway. Saying that “Well that’s the old covenant, and this is the new covenant”, though a relevant argument, is not a sufficient argument because you still have to deal with the fact that in the Old Testament God sanctioned wars. You can’t run away from that, and casting out the entire Old Testament to avoid it is, well, wrong.
Third, the two testaments write on different levels. The OT is written in a more historical way while the NT is written more conceptually. From the NT, we can be sure that God never wants war, but from the OT, we can see that God does recognize the need for war on occasions.
My point is that we should not look to the Bible to deal with the question of war in general to judge a specific war. There is always a difference between the general and the particular. In general, war is to be avoided. In particular, you need to examine the specifics of the specific war to come to a conclusion.
Because we are not part of this nation, but instead belong to God’s kingdom, we cannot follow blind nationalism, and promote “the American ideal in the rest of the world.” But, at the same time, if we are dealing with an evil force, we can help our nation suppress it.