Christian Ethics 2022

Is God a Moral Monster?

May 16, 2023 10:04:43 AM / by Paul Copan

This General Session was recorded live at the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in Cary, NC on October 17, 2022. For information about the next conference, please visit




This transcript was created by an automatic transcript generator, and may contain minor errors and mistakes compared to the original recording as a result.


We live in perilous times. And we are forced to face certain challenges regarding the use of coercive force, lethal force. In our era, when we think of rogue nations, from Iran to North Korea to now Russia and China, flexing their military muscles, we also have become familiar with terrorism since September 11, in particular, and beyond. In fact, when I was in my wife and I were on sabbatical in 2017, in Oxford, and we were visiting with a daughter and son in law who were in London for the day, and that was the day of the Westminster bombing. And they had just been there a couple of hours before we had gotten together for for lunch. And then we heard all these sirens after we say goodbye to them. And we knew that there was something happening and there was the Westminster Bridge attack. How do we respond to these sorts of things and other horrors that we are seeing in our day? My father came from Ukraine, my mother came from Latvia, they fled communism, they ended up in Germany where they met and came over to the United States a place of refuge for them. In fact, we have relatives in Ukraine and we have been supporting them we did actually a GoFundMe page to to help them. I have a sister in Vienna, who is has some Ukrainian, some of our Ukrainian relatives there, and she's helping them. And we also have a cousin who is doing relief work in Ukraine. But we are we are seeing that there are some terrible things happening. Russia seeking to destroy the Ukrainian infrastructure. And again, an example of an unjust war and what I would say what is adjust defense of an invaded nation. As we unpack these things, we want to look at various views on war, I did a book as you'll see shortly, that as an editor for different views on war, peace and violence. And we'll look at the that briefly. But we want to look at scripture, what does Scripture have to say about these things, and I do believe that the scriptures endorse, support the notion of a just war. And so we'll unpack what that means. There are other things that we could talk about, we don't have time for that this morning. But what I want to do is just briefly give you a brief overview of those four views, the book that I edited, came out last month with IVP academic and that gives these four different views. And and so the non violence view the pacifism views at one end of the spectrum, and then if you want the the just war perspective on the other, and there are a couple that are that are in between the one on non violence basically takes these four positions, as in defense of pacifism, or non violence, that the taking of life in war, or in any case, human life is incompatible with the Christian life. And secondly, the refusal to take life and war doesn't mean abandoning the good of the world. So it's not some sort of utopianism or quietism, where you just withdraw, like maybe like the Amish, but it actually is engaged in in building alliances, reconciliation, building, kind of acting in just peacemaking terms. Again, I don't see that as conflicting with exerting force and working for peace simultaneously. And in fact, that just war is exerting itself towards the end of peace. That is the goal of a just war. But the third position in pacifism is that there is this commitment to pacifism is not merely about fulfilling a command but about entering into a life of discipleship and virtue. And not to preempt my contributor and friend miles words who actually taught with me at Palm Beach Atlantic University. But, but I don't think that discipleship and virtue are opposed to engagement in military conflict in defense of the innocent, preserving the peace and so forth. Fourthly, the pacifist position maintains that that it refuses an ultimate divide between the private and the public. And I do think that there is actually there are different roles or domains that we have and that we play, you know, the we assume that there are these domains in which we operate. And so, someone who works for a company who writes checks for the company can't simply write checks for for anyone, but only within that company. There is a certain official dub a certain domain in which that person who writes the checks has authority and it does not apply outside of that sphere of authority. And so it's not wrong to think in terms of the government's having its own authority and for people to serve within the government, and indeed, indeed, to engage in just policing, and in just warfare. I'm going to skip a few of these things here. The second position is that a Christian realism, a position that emerged in the wake of Nazi aggression and American isolationism during the Second World War. And there is some overlap between, as we'll see just war and Christian realism. And Reinhold Niebuhr was the one who really spearheaded this way of thinking. But it deals with and often affirms a kind of dirty hands sort of involvement, if you're in the military, that there is the balance of wars necessity, but also wars, tragic consequences, that it recognizes this kind of attention, and people who are going to get involved in war are just going to get their hands dirty. Now and adjust for scenario. One, the the traditional position is that one is not suffering from guilt, or one is not inducing guilt by engagement in warfare, although it is a very weighty thing to take the life of another. Even if you're protecting your wife and your children, when there's a break in into your home and their lives are lethal, lethally threatened, then even though you are justified in defending yourself and your family, there is still something that is very difficult and hard about taking someone else's life in self defense. But of course, Genesis nine talks about if anyone sheds another's blood, then by not by human being that person's blood should be shed. So there is this provision for just lethal force to protect the lives of the innocent, and that may mean taking the life of another person. So there is this tension between recognizing people are God's image bearers, but also subject to sin. So there are these tensions that Christian realism seeks to grapple with. And and so if we could say that there is kind of a pastoral dimension here to that the Christian realist position recognizes that the taking of another human life is weighty, it is something that may require that often requires spiritual care, pastoral care. And so it emphasizes that dimension to the the warfare question. The fourth position, the besides adjust for that I'll be talking about is taken from Mick Pierce, who basically looks at the just word position, looks at the pacifist position, says A plague on both your houses and says that these are untenable, he wrote a book called The Gods of war, and he is a church historian. And so he looks at the bigger picture here, and I thought this position would add a significant interest and engagement to the book. So he says that the Christian is just war position assumes a view about how society as a whole should be run. But such a view is wholly contrary to the Christianity of the early centuries of Christendom before Constantine's rise to power. And so he says that both sides often claim just war. Yes, this is the just war, this is why we need to go to war. And so they they claim that their causes just but he says something's wrong here, if you have both sides making these kinds of claims, he also says that Christian pacifism or non violence has much to commend it, but it comes to grief when violence threatens other people. And it's when the within the pacifist power to stop violent attacks. And his third point is that war is a radical, inescapable evil that pulls all of us participants into all of its participants into the vortex of an ever deepening wickedness. So he says he can't avoid it. But there are some deep problems with it. And if you are engaged in war, to make every effort, every effort to succeed, and to prevent such occurrences from arising, you know, the next time



I'll say something about just war in a moment, but what I want to do is lay out a little bit of the scriptures backdrop to this. Now, I will be speaking in a session this afternoon, that you know, again, I'm scheduled for but instead of speaking on the topic of the Canaanites and warfare in the Old Testament, I'll be doing that in that seminar rather than now. So So again, I touch on that you can look at the book is got a vindictive bully that you've received, in which I cover that material and lots of other issues related to the Old Testament some of the challenging passages in the Old Testament. But let's take a look briefly at Scripture peacemaking. to war and if you're interested, there's a kind of a classic defense of just war by Nigel beggar who is an Oxford University's a Christian theologian and ethicist. excellent book published by Oxford University Press. Also Providence Journal is a journal you can actually access it online Providence or something like that, and see lots of articles that talk about just peacemaking warfare, just war, American policy, foreign policy and so forth. That may be helpful as well. But we're probably familiar with the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. And there are some courts, this is a go to text, do not don't don't resist the evil one, turn the other cheek, etc. These are plates go to places for a Christian pacifistic position. I don't think they hold up. I don't think that they actually carry the day. So let's unpack a few of these texts briefly. When Jesus says an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, you've heard it said, But I say to you, Jesus is not saying that the Mosaic Law was off base here, Greg Boyd, with whom I interact in the in the in the book, Is God a vindictive bully and elsewhere. He says that Jesus was was repudiating the law of Moses. And I'm saying he is actually interacting with a false representation of the Law of Moses. And he is dealing with these misrepresentations and saying, You've heard it said, But I say to you, and he's giving a pathway for how to rectify this misunderstanding or how to actually engage in these transformative initiatives that address the deeper underlying issue. So Jesus is, you know, the the passage, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, it's not literal, but actually is dealing with proportionality, that the punishment should fit the crime and it was typically addressed in a monetary manner. So Jesus is speaking against using this text to justify personal vengeance. He's not speaking against judicial verdicts where there is a punishment that is meted out. In fact, this is how God operates that God will render to every person according to his deeds. So there is that proportionality built in here and into a number of punishments and judgments in the Old Testament. What about what Jesus is saying, you know, talking about not resisting the evil doer? Well, actually a better translation would be not resisting by evil means, of course, Jesus is resisting evil doers all the time, isn't he? He's driving out money changes from the temple, he's speaking out against the religious leaders. So he is resisting evil. He comes to defeat Satan himself, the evil one, through His death on the cross. So he is resisting he is conquering evil through His death and resurrection. Romans 12 captures what is being addressed in the Sermon on the Mount, never pay back evil for evil to anyone respect what is right in the sight of all men do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good so don't resist by evil means rather respond by overcoming this evil with good again, in your personal relationships. This is not talking about government is not talking about a justice system. This is talking about personal relationships don't use that I for and I text to justify vengeance or some sort of a vigilante mentality. So Jesus saying don't respond by evil means when evil is done to you and one strikes you when one wants to sue you. When one wants to take your coat, when one forces you to go one mile, when that person is abusing power, or is personally hostile to you don't respond in kind. So Jesus is calling us to be different. So when someone strikes you, on the right cheek, this is actually not an act of violence, as is often interpreted, but as actually a personal insult. Jesus is addressing those who insult you and if you look at the Old Testament and you see parallels, you see oh, yeah, that's that's kind of a shaming act. It's not an act of violence. So job, for example, talks about people open their mouths to jeer at me. They strike my cheek in scorn. It's a violent act. Psalm 3515. The spiders slandered me without ceasing. Lamentation is 330 Let him offer his cheek to the one who would strike him Let him be filled with disgrace. You see that connection between striking on the cheek and being shamed? being insulted. And so what Jesus is saying is if you are insulted, be willing to take another insult, don't reply with another insult in in kind, be willing to take another insult, Don't stoop to their level. In fact, Jesus does not turn the other cheek when he is on trial. When Jesus was struck on the cheek, he says this the way you answer a high priest, Jesus answered, If I had spoken wrongly testify of the wrong, but if rightly, why do you strike me? So Jesus is even standing up to those who do strike him and calling them to account? Why have you done this on justly? What we see in the Sermon on the Mount over and over again, and I talk about this in my biblical ethics book is that there are these transforming initiatives that there is a kind of a way out of these, these vicious cycles of just loving those who love you, rather than loving your enemies and so forth. And so what Jesus is saying here is that if anyone strikes you on the right cheek and turned to him the other also take another insult. And if anyone wants to sue you take and take your coat, give your cloak, as well as be willing to part with what is even legally yours. You're not to grasping onto clutching didn't let it go. Jesus is also saying if anyone forces you to go one mile as a Roman soldier might go also the second mile, that is go beyond the demands that are forced upon you. This is part of Christian discipleship. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. Of course, Jesus doesn't always, you know, some people say the focus, they focus on gift ever everyone who asks, well, of course, Jesus doesn't give to everyone who asks, you know, grant that we would consider on your, on your right and left hand. The disciples asked Jesus, James and John, or are they settle this dispute between me and my brother Jesus, who made me an arbiter between you and your brother. And he goes on and warns them about the nature of greed and and materialism. But the focus is on favoritism. You know, the danger is to just help those who may be able to pay you back or those who those who perhaps have more of the wherewithal, but he says, Be generous in spirit without showing favoritism that is really what is at issue here. Now, this isn't easy, that that loving one's enemies is not something that is easy for us, but God Himself as we read in Romans chapter five, while we were enemies, Christ at the right time got died for the ungodly. And so, so Christ dies for his enemies, to make them friends to become reconciled to Him. And so as we are peacemakers, Blessed are the peacemakers, why because they will be called sons or children of God. That is, they will be recognized as imitating their Heavenly Father, they're doing the sort of thing that their Heavenly Father does, who makes peace with human beings who loves his enemies and so forth. Let's briefly say something about peacemaking and war in other scriptures. Keeping mind that Jesus did not come up with this notion of loving one's enemies. Sometimes people like Greg Boyd will, will will make this idea we'll come up with came up with this idea, but Jesus himself is borrowing from themes in the Old Testament. The Old Testament and New Testament commanded us to love our enemies Exodus 23. For example, if you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you, lying helpless under its load, etc. Proverbs 25. And Paul quotes this in Romans 12. If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, if he's thirsty, give him water to drink, and you will be heaping burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you.



So we see loving enemies in the Old Testament and notice this, that this does not inherently conflict with some sort of a judicial rendering. You can personally love your enemies, but also press for some sort of adjust punishment in a court of law. To love one's enemies at a personal level, does not mean that there should not be punishments at a civic or state level. So there is no presumed contradiction in the Old Testament. So why should we think that there would be in the New Testament as well? Now when it comes to loving our enemies, we should understand that this is not something that is absolute, that we should be concerned about judgment upon evildoers, if their oppression continues, and I touch on this in the in the book is God a vindictive bully where I talk about the imprecatory Psalms and other passages? What do we do with people who continue to oppress. Well, we obviously desire their repentance. But if they don't repent, then we also pray judgment upon those who continue to oppress, especially those who are oppressing God's people. So Jesus in Matthew 18 talks about, it'd be better to have a millstone hung around someone's neck, the one who leaves these little ones astray and drown in the depths of the sea. Jude five, interesting, Jesus himself. This is a Christological passage, going back to the Old Testament, just like in First Corinthians 10, for you know, that rock was Christ that led them, the Israelites, he says, Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew that Jesus, who saved the people out of the land of Egypt afterward destroyed those who did not believe the best manuscripts that we have, say, Jesus here, Jesus is engaged in this kind of lethal judgment against the Israelites who disobeyed who rebelled through perhaps sending serpents or whatever. And we also see in the New Testament, Jesus saying some severe things again, you got the red letter edition, it's in red letters. Revelation to Jesus says, I will make war against the Nicolaitans with a sword of my mouth. This is a temporal judgment, not simply something comes later on. Indeed, the beast himself makes war against the saints. Revelation to Jesus says that I will strike Jezza bells followers dead, this is a temporal, temporal judgment, not something that has to come at the end of time. Jesus is speaking here, about striking people down striking them dead, again, very severe. And Paul says, Behold, then the kindness and severity of God, that while we are to Yes, love our enemies, pray for our enemies, pray for terrorists to come to faith in Christ. But if they persist, pray that God will bring judgment. In fact, we even see the heavenly martyrs in Revelation six, where they're crying out how long Oh, Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth. So there is an appropriate call for judgment. And there is a rejoicing indeed, as you read Revelation, you're rejoice that Babylon has been overthrown, that she has been cast down and has been judged doubly for her sins. Behold them the kindness and severity of God something that cuts across both Testaments. We also see just a general verse from the book of Proverbs, rescuing those who are in danger of death, those who are under oppression, this will require a coercive force. rescue those being a lead away to death hold back, those staggering towards slaughter. There's the use of force to stop this from happening to him to stop innocents from being dragged away to death. And T right talks about the relationship of wrath and love, he says, face it to deny God's wrath is at bottom to deny God's love. When God sees humans being enslaved. If God doesn't hate it, he is not a loving God. When God sees innocent people being bombed because of someone's political agenda, if God doesn't hate it, he isn't a loving God. When God sees people lying and cheating and abusing one another, exploiting and grifting and preying on one another. If God were to say, nevermind, I love you all anyway, he is neither good nor loving. The Bible doesn't speak of a God of generalized benevolence. It speaks of the God who made the world and loves it so passionately, that he must and does hate everything that distorts and he faces the world, and particularly his human creatures. So we see people remember this from ISIS times when this Yazidi women were becoming sex slaves of the of ISIS in Iraq. People were fleeing for their lives. We see this with Boko Haram in Nigeria and so forth. The The scripture speaks out against these sorts of Acts. And there is a place for force, coercive force, even lethal force to stop these things from happening. Here's some general texts. We just looked at Proverbs 24, but Ecclesiastes three some people see this as descriptive others as normative. But there are other texts, Proverbs 20 make war by wise guidance, and one of the there's an abundance of counselors, there is victory. Also in Luke 24, it's interesting that Jesus uses a parable of a king, who is counting the cost before going to war. And this is one of the principles of just war theory. You you gauge whether you're actually going to be able to achieve victory or not, as you engage in a just cause So, Luke 22 If Jesus has been teaching pure pacifism during His entire ministry, what are the disciples doing with two swords? Just a basic question here. Why are they carrying around swords? It seems that there's a basic element of protection, hear from bandits or whatever, even if you brandish it and don't use it. This is at least a deterrent to keep people from bothering you. We also see soldiers in the New Testament that are often portrayed as honorable people, men have faith and so forth. And when they're asking John the Baptist, what should we do to show forth our repentance? They are not told to give up their soldierly ways, but rather to not to take bribes not not to make false accusations to be content with their wages and so forth, that we see highly commendable people of faith. In fact, Jesus is amazed at two things. He is first of all amazed at the unbelief of certain Israelites. And he's also amazed at the belief of this Gentile soldier. Never before have I seen such faith in all of Israel, he says of this century and they're also positive images of soldiering the New Testament now my, my friend, Greg Boyd, with whom I interact in that vindictive bully book. He says, Well, you know, soldiers, Jesus hung out with soldiers, he hung out with prostitutes. It's not as though Jesus endorsing either. Well, there are a couple of differences here. Well, one, we see that the soldiers are not told to leave their life of sin, whereas prostitutes would be, but just look at the positive images of soldiering and then translate that to prostitution and see how it works. So first Corinthians nine, who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense, well, why not say who at any time services a prostitute at her own expense? Second Timothy two for no soldier, an act of service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Why not say no harlot in a prostitution ring entangled herself in the affairs of everyday life, so that she may please the pimp who enlisted her, of course, not something problematic here. We do see soldiers positively portrayed, there's a piety to them, and that there is no inherent conflict portrayed in the New Testament. So you talk about of course, a lot of soldiers were functionally acting as police in the Roman Empire. And so you have that kind of protection of like a police force in Palestine. And we certainly could make that application today of policing being a domestic sort of thing and soldiering being something that has more of an international effect. We also have soldiering in the early church. Christian soldiering existed before the time of Constantine. So apart from the New Testament, which is not uniformly pacifistic, it's not making those sorts of claims, as we've seen, that Christians themselves throughout the first centuries of the church engaged in soldiering and certain early Christian writers talked about this Tertullian talks advocates praying for all our Emperor's but also for our brave armies. Interesting. Origin also promoted prayer in a saint in the same way. We have the later to tell the and talking about being concerned about not soldiering, but idolatry. That is something that is was often associated with military practices and ceremony. So he did address that, but But again, it wasn't the soldiering in particular, but as when one's one zone, you know, devotion to Christ might be compromised. Clement of Alexandria takes a positive view of soldiering based on John the Baptist, and Jesus attitudes towards soldiers and believe that soldiers like farmers and sailors could mature in their faith in God.



Dionysius of Alexandria speaks positively of Christian soldiers. Eusebius gives evidence of Christian soldiers in the Roman army, not to mention that there are two inscriptions of Christian soldiers before the time of Constantine in the fourth century, then St. Sebastian and other Christian soldiers served under Diocletian. Tertullian writes that they could be found everywhere in fortresses, and in the military camp. So we see that there is a lot of times there's this presumption of pacifism, but it's actually a mixed bag and there is no uniform statement that is given some sort of a church council as it were, that utterly abolishes this kind of activity. Now, I'm going to skip on to the the question of what is the government's role here? We know that there are if we had to summarize what the government is to do, remember, the government is instituted by God to do basically three things. Think of it in terms of the peace To punish the guilty, to protect the innocent and to preserve the peace. So, for example, Romans 13, the state is a minister of God for good. And it says rulers, these rulers are servants of God devoting themselves to the free thing, and that the minister of the state does not bear the sword for nothing. In other words, you know, the sword is not the equivalent of an officer's ticket book here. The sword has a lethal implication that is that there could be lethal consequences. And keep this in mind, as some people are saying, well, you're saying that any government can do whatever it wants. No, I'm not saying that. When the government is doing its job, it will be preserving the peace punishing the guilty, protecting the innocent. So like marriage, it's made in heaven, but not every marriage should should is approved by God. There are some marriages that shouldn't come off. Like when a believer marries an unbeliever, that shouldn't happen. But the institution of marriage itself is made in heaven. But it's not as though every marriage is therefore approved. And the same way with government. And we are called to pray for government leaders so that we might be able to lead lead peace, lead, lead, not leave peaceable lives. And acts 23. The apostle Paul, when his life is under threat, what does he do, he has his nephew report this mob threat on his life, to the commanding officer. And Paul gets a military escort of 470 million personnel to take him out of Jerusalem to celeea. So Paul, himself is appealing to the government to the military to protect him. That's what it should do, protect innocent civilians, and lethally, if necessary. Now, we can learn lessons from pacifism. And I think that that book that I've edited, does a good job of bringing certain perspectives together and helping us to wrestle with some of these things. So So rather than having a knee jerk reaction against pacifism, saying pacifism has something to teach those who hold to adjust your view not to jump the gun and, and to, to jump quickly to the use of lethal force, when other means could suffice, et cetera. So we can we can talk about that. But I'll just have to skip some of these things. Let me just say a few things about the just war theory here. And again, this is a theory not root to save. Some people say well show me from scripture, and it's compatible with Scripture, we do see some just four principles in scripture. But this is based on more broadly general revelation, what God has made known of himself to all people, not just special revelation and saving revelation through through Jesus Christ in the scriptures. So these are the sorts of principles that have been around for a while, even before the Christian faith came on the scene. just war theory is normative for all people. So if a nation Christian based or not, is threatened it you know, and by an invading nation, then there would be a right to protect itself justly, it would be a just cause. So just war theory, however, does not try to justify war. It's directed toward justice and refrig and restricts warfare to aggression. And if all parties adhere to this rule of not engaging in aggression, in engaging only unjust causes, there would be no war. Just we're a theory assumes also that private citizens don't have the right to use military force. So there's no you know, note no black ops sort of a way to engage in war, it should be approved by the government. And there are three basically three categories of criteria that is the justice of war, what do you do before you go to war? What On what basis to enter into war? And what do you do in order to engage in adjust undertaking of war? And then finally, what do you do after or? So it's not just entering into war? Well, what is the what are the what is the cause into which you're entering? Is it a just cause, and so forth? So before we even get to warfare, there needs to be certain things in place. And then after the war, what do you do? The end we'll see, just war has as its goal, a restoration of peace. It's the creation of a fair piece of bringing about reconciliation. It's not about devastating a nation but actually trying to restore that nation, as we saw with the allies and in working with Germany to restore it and Japan and so forth, to to bring it back on its feet rather than to just leave it devastated. So, when it comes to these these principles, there is the there are certain weightier criteria that these these first three have to be in place. These are necessary are weighed the weight of your criteria. It's not as though all of them are equal. Also, there has to be a legitimate authority and a lawful declaration before going to war. That So you know that there's also has to be adjust cause that may be defending innocent civilians, their livelihoods, their way of life and so forth. So so there can be certain reasons for undertaking this certain, certain just causes. It's not just a one variety, but there could be several. Thirdly, there has to be a right intent, that the motivations are subject to ethical scrutiny, that violence should be intended for the purpose of order justice and ultimate conciliation. So So hatred, revenge destruction, those are not just principles on which to undertake a war. And then there are others likelihood of success was we quoted Jesus sitting down counting the cost, can you actually achieve a victory? Or should you sue for peace, in the in the event that you cannot actually carry off this this war, proportionality of ends and also last resort? So what will this cost in terms of lies material resources? Last Resort, have you exhausted or roughly exhausted? The the basic options that are on the table in terms of diplomacy and so on? Then there's justice during the war, which also takes into account proportionality. Are the battlefield tools and tactics employed proportionate to the battlefield objectives? Discrimination? Has care been taken to protect the lives and property of legitimate non combatants? Order after the war? Are we restoring order ensuring domestic and international security as well as proper governance and so on? Justice, what just punishments and restitution are called for think of the Nuremberg trials and bringing down to the Nazi hierarchy and its ideology, what needs to be done to keep that from being resurrected? A conciliation? How can both parties imagine and move forward toward a shared future? And as we look at just war, I think we've seen some of the benefits of just wars, to help bring an end to chattel slavery in America, Nazism, fascism, Soviet communism. And keep in mind too, that you know, that sometimes there can be a, you know, that there could be wars typically begin from from malicious intent in the absence of deterrence, or because of lack of clear resolution, or unresolved disagreements from an earlier war, sometimes, because there is a lack of will sometimes because there is the absence of deterrence, for example, you dismantle America's military and bullies throughout the world somehow rise up and start to, to pose threats in other parts of the world. So there are great dangers of not having a strong military, even if you don't use that military or you don't fire a shot. Having a strong military can serve as a deterrent, as, as Ronald Reagan said, there can be peace, through strength, even if you don't exert any sort of lethal force. And often nations become accomplices to evil through the inaction of nations that have the capability of preserving peace, but don't live up to that responsibility.



So keep in mind that in the just war, understanding, there is not to be a certain presumption of peace, that you should just avoid conflict at all costs, but rather, what is the just cause to pursue here? What should we undertake? So we don't just say, well, forget it, I'm not going to engage in anything. Now there comes a time, when you have to make a decision, there comes a time when you have to consider when have I stepped over the line? And now am I supporting injustice? So those are some of the considerations that need to be brought into our understanding of these issues that are again, very weighty, very difficult to navigate sometimes, and but there are some basic principles and guidelines that can help us as we work through these things, ones that are available, as I said, through not just we don't see them only in Scripture, but general revelation makes these sorts of things available to us as we reason about morality, as we reason about protecting the innocent, punishing, the guilty and so forth. We start to formulate these sorts of things, and can see that there is great benefit. I won't go and be able to go into terrorism and so forth. Right. But you know, basically, if you look at terrorism, there are there are certain principles that set it apart. Terrorism is asymmetric. It is indiscriminate, destabilizing and unconventional. So those are four characteristics of terrorism. We but but just wars would apply to those situations as well. The asymmetric dimension, that there's not a nation state. It's indiscriminate, that makes them distinct. between combatants and non combatants, that is destabilizing it. It upsets the culture, the political systems, human life in general. And it's also unconventional, that they can, you know, terrorists can embed themselves in schools and hospitals and so forth. So it doesn't operate according to principles of just war. But I think that just four principles can be applied when combating terrorism, that's about all we can say about that right now can't elaborate much further. But I trust that some of these things are helpful to us as we navigate through difficult waters as we think about Russia, Ukraine, as we think about certain bullies that are arising in our own world, where geopolitical instability is at its greatest, it seems, of course, with the way that we withdrew from Afghanistan, which I think emboldened some additional powers like Russia and China, to, to expand to flex their muscle, and so forth. And so there's a lot of need for prayer for wisdom. But also keep in mind that we as believers, we have ministry opportunities where we are, we should be aware and what's going on in other parts of the world. But we should certainly not stop the work of discipleship of church planting of evangelism, just because we don't have the reins of power immediately in our hands. But let us do the work of the Lord that He has called us to do. But to be aware of what's going on in the world to pray for the peace of the world to pray for justice to prevail. Of course, we look forward to the Prince of Peace coming and establishing his kingdom here. But with those things said, and we're out of time, let's finish our time in prayer and trusting our own lives our own world, to the Lord, praying for even those who are persecuted believers throughout the world where they're being oppressed. Let's pray. Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to embark on this conversation, many difficult challenges that we have to think through. But we also see that there are some clear starting points that can help us along the way. And may we be bold and courageous disciples of Jesus Christ as well as good citizens, to stand up for what is right to oppose the oppression of the innocent, to oppose systems that are wreaking havoc in the world and bringing about great distress, oppression, harm. Lord, give us wisdom, but also may not be unaware of the times in which we live. We pray Lord, for the nations of the world, that there would be the establishment of just structures, the establishment of peace and appropriate alliances that will preserve the world from eruptions in violence and also establishing protocols for for preserving peace. Lord, we pray that Your kingdom would come that your will would be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen. Thank you very much.

Topics: Christian Ethics, Morality of War, Self-defense & Capital Punishment

Paul Copan

Written by Paul Copan

Paul Copan (Ph.D., Philosophy, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida. He also helped establish the new M.A. in Philosophy of Religion at PBA (start-up August 2021). For six years, he served as president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He is author or editor of over 40 books, including works such as The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, A Little Book for New Philosophers, Is God a Moral Monster? and Is God a Vindictive Bully? He has also contributed essays to over 50 books, both scholarly and popular, and he has authored a number of articles in professional journals. In 2017, he was a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University. Paul and his wife, Jacqueline, have six children, and they reside in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Leave a Comment