Overnight, President Donald Trump had Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, killed in an airstrike at an airport in Iraq. Naturally, the internet also blew up with folks instantly defending or condemning the action.
The voices heard for and against such actions have been the usual chatter you hear anytime the United States gets involved in conflict around the globe.
Of particular interest to me is the conversation that many Christians are having on the issue.
Using The Old Testament To Defend Modern War
While people generally agree that there isn’t any explicit teaching about war on the pages of the the New Testament, most gladly fall back onto the pages of the Old Testament to justify America getting involved in any sort of armed conflict.
After all, that seems like a safe bet, right? There is a lot of fighting and blood and guts and conquest in the Old Testament. So, whatever Jesus and the apostles may have possibly said on the topic of war and peace (or whatever they did not say), we can always fall back on all the wars and conquests of the Old Testament saints to justify America blowing someone up.
After all, Moses, Joshua, David, and a lot of other folks who loved the Lord did a lot of killing in His name. So, if that was okay, then it’s okay for us to do the same today should we feel the need to morally justify it, right?
Not so fast.
Questionable Foundation For War In The Old Testament
When you study the Old Testament closely, you’ll discover something pretty interesting. For all the bloodshed we find on its pages, there isn’t exactly much in the way of any cohesive philosophy on when waging war is a morally justifiable action.
About the only justification put forward for war in the Old Testament is for the conquest of Canaan, and such was a “holy war” with a very specific set of parameters, and it was highly limited in its scope.
In such holy war, God declared Himself the Lord of all the Earth. And as such He made a special provision for Abraham’s descendants to occupy a piece of land that He promised that they could live on forever. In response to such, God called for those occupying this land to vacate, convert, or face mass extermination at the hand of the Israelites as judgment for failing to recognize Yahweh as Lord.
And for the most part, when we read about all the wars and battles of the Old Testament, this is the context we are to understand the vast majority of all the wars we see fought in the name of God. God explicitly called for a holy war to be waged in a very specific context, namely, the conquest of Canaan and settling of the land.
Beyond this? God never really gave any instruction about when war as a general practice should otherwise be fought outside of this context. Try as you might to find a “just war theory” in the pages of the Old Testament, and you are going to come away pretty empty handed, and without much to hang your hat on.
Christians Living In America (And Everywhere Else)
And I don’t know about you, but as a Christian I am not very comfortable with trying to build a theological ethic of war from a special time in history where God ordained genocide as a form of helping the Jewish people settle into a geographic area that He promised Abraham.
A clear and modern application just doesn’t seem readily evident. Especially when you consider that as Christians we live in just about every nation on the face of the Earth. We are not bound to any particular geographic location or national identity. We have no “holy war” ordained by God to fight in on His behalf.
So, if you are going to build a working just war theory, it’s going have to be from something other than the Old Testament. And frankly, I don’t see Jesus or the apostles ever instructing us on the principles of war and when and how it such wars should be justifiably fought.
Indeed, at many times the teachings of Jesus and the apostles would seem to oppose such things. I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t figured out how I can love my enemy by blowing him up. But maybe that’s just me.