When should we not kill people in war? 

Monday Musings for October 19, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

America’s Civil War (1861-1865) is sometimes called the war against brothers. There are instances where that was literally true — one brother fighting for the North and another fighting for the South — but I think it’s often meant in a broader sense... that we are all brothers under the skin. As a nation, we had already fought outside enemies, and that alone would make us brothers.

But if you take the biblical genealogies seriously (as I do), then you are “stuck” with the fact that all war is against brothers. Cain and Abel were the first to fight such a war. Admittedly, it was one-sided, but still, I take this as our first example of war. I aver that all wars have the same DNA, so every war is a war against brothers.

We are not all apparently brothers, though. We are divided by geography, skin color and politics. But the propensity to fight lives on in us as individuals. So it should come as no surprise that we also fight as nations. Historians have been faithful in recording these conflicts, so the data is in: nations have had war — and we have paid the price! But how odd it is that we have rules to govern the limits of war... and by “we,” I mean the people of the world.

Now, not every person contributes to war directly (or agrees with my thesis), but there is consensus in the world about the rights of people during wartime, basic human rights and even civil rights. This is because the world is becoming more and more one community. Now, it’s tempting for those living in the USA to support isolationism. But we share a world with people who hate our ideology — and some have nuclear weapons! Isolationism would be foolish in such a world. We must keep our noses in everyone else’s business! In this world, that’s defense, not offense.

But many Christians fear the idea of nations coming together; they see it as setting the stage for a single world leader. But even if that is so, this shouldn’t stop us from acting as a world community to protect human rights. We must stop unjust wars, respond to refugee crises and call-out corrupt leaders. How could we not do this and call ourselves Christians? Centuries ago, no one knew what horrors were taking place on the other side of the world. But now we do — and that knowledge demands action! Responding with the global community in the name of Christ is our duty.

Materialist atheists take umbrage at the notion of “duty,” though. They understand that for there to be duty, overarching morality exists — and that’s a bridge too far. Morality is a metaphysical phenomenon, not one easily explained by materialist reductionism. But since morality is ubiquitous, atheists can’t dismiss it — nor should they. Morality is why we have police forces, courts and prisons. Morality is why enlightened nations have endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

You see, morality is one of God’s general provisions for humankind (Romans 2:14-15). But even with this, the world is a dreadful place; this should give us pause. Considering the shape the world is in with morality, can you imagine what it would be like without it?

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