Was The Iraq War Biblically Justified?

In this column we reprint an article from the "Endtime Issues Newsletter." In this column we offer a response.

Endtime Issues No. 98
21 April 2003

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.
Retired Professor of Theology, Andrews University

"Vine & Fig Tree" is a non-profit organization dedicating to advocating the ideals of Micah's "Vine & Fig Tree" vision, in which human beings "beat their swords into plowshares" and everyone "dwells safely under their own vine and fig tree" (Micah 4:1-5).

Dear Members of the Endtime Issues Newsletter:

Several subscribers have urged me to examine the biblical legitimacy of the "operation Iraqi freedom." I accepted this challenge because I was eager to understand better the biblical view of warfare. In particularly, I wanted to find out if the liberation of Iraq by the coalition forces is biblically justifiable. Does the Bible justify the liberation of an oppressed people by Christian nations?

Contrary to popular misconceptions, we are not in the "end times." The writers of the New Testament repeatedly declares that they were in the "last days" and "end times," which were the last days of the Old Covenant, which lasted until the temple was destroyed in A.D.70. We are now in the first days of the New Covenant, not the last days of the old. Those days are over.

For Biblical evidence of the end of the end times, click here.

What does the Bible teach regarding our attitude toward the destruction and death caused by war? Are all the wars the same morally and ethically? Should Christians ever participate in warfare? Does the Bible provide any guidance for the conduct of war on either a personal or national level? Should Christians seek to maintain peace at any cost, even it means appeasing the enemy?

These are some of the questions that came to my mind as I set out to conduct this investigation. Unfortunately the limitations of time and space, have caused me to be selective in the questions I was able to address.

We should recognize that the reason Bacchiocchi has written this article is because he supports the war in Iraq, but the Bible on its face condemns war. Commands like "Love your enemies" and "blessed are the peacemakers" and "vengeance is Mine" have brought us out of the dark ages and incomprehensibly (because sociologists have not chosen to study and document it) softened the harsh habits of fallen  mankind. Western civilization is Christianized civilization. The more the "pacifism" of the Bible has been taught and practiced, the more humane the world has become. It seems obvious to millions of people that Christianity is anti-war.

But Bacchiocchi wants to justify war, so he has to write this long article attempting to do so.

Elizabeth Flower, of the University of Pennsylvania, writing in The Dictionary of the History of Ideas, observes,

The perplexing issue is why such straightforward and unambiguous teaching came to be ignored, or at least taken as a "counsel of perfection" impossible of realization in this world. In any case, . . . Christians began to accommodate to the social realities of civil government, military service, taxation, etc.; and then to develop their own political power. Yet the literal directives of the Sermon [on the Mount] were time-resistant and Christian pacifism has not lacked for bold and uncompromising advocates in such early Church Fathers as Clement, Justin, and above all Origen, in sects such as the Quakers, Schwenkenfelders, and Doukhobors, and in such modern proponents as Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Maritain, and A.J. Muste. . . . Yet historical Christianity generally compromised its pacifist commitments.
I must confess that it has been a time consuming project. I spent over 100 hours reading, thinking, and writing. Sometimes I felt guilty, because perhaps I should have devoted this time to complete the second chapter of the forthcoming book POPULAR HERESIES. At any rate, I am glad that I can share with you a biblical perspective not only on the Iraqi war, but on warfare in general. If you find this study enlightening, feel free to share it with your friends. As a result of your efforts, over 25,000 people have already subscribed to this ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER. 100 hours represents a two-week vacation. The first paragraph of the essay below indicates that part of that two-week vacation was spent watching FOX News. FOX News and "endtimes" preachers are very poor sources of information on the Biblical evaluation of war.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
Retired Professor of Theology, Andrews University

The author of this response does not have a PhD. He does have a J.D. and an M.A. He passed the California Bar Exam but was not admitted to practice law because his allegiance to God is greater than his allegiance to the government:


His final brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the court which said schoolchildren should not be allowed to say "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance) was written by three well-known professors of Constitutional Law and a former California Supreme Court Justice. Click here for a copy of his Deposition explaining why he believes the Bible commands pacifism.

In light of the hundred or so Bible references in that Deposition, we need some exceptional revelation and/or analysis as to why followers of the Prince of Peace should support U.S. military policy.


It is not clear when Bacchiocchi's piece was written. This response is being written on Friday March 11, 2005. Elections in Iraq have taken place, and Saddam's once-pro American secular regime has been replaced by a Shi'ite Islamic Theocracy. Here's a question you should consider:

Suppose your son (or daughter!) decided that he wasn't earning as much money as he would like, and that the pay and bonuses involved in a stint in Iraq would be financially beneficial. A comparatively short time in Iraq, and a comfy margin of safety in the bank. During his time in Iraq he dropped numerous bombs on Iraqi neighborhoods, killing many women and children who really had no fondness for Saddam Hussein, and turning their family businesses into rubble. The day after the elections replaced a secular government (in which Christian missionaries had generous freedoms) with a fundamentalist Islamic government (in which Christians will likely have less freedom) your son was killed by a land mine.

Did your son die in vain? Was the last part of his life marked by a distinguished Christian character? Would the Americans who signed our Constitution (not one of which was an atheist or deist, contrary to popular misconception) applaud your son and the government who sent him to Iraq? (For more on how America's Founding Fathers would have handled the situation in Iraq, click here.) And most importantly, how will Jesus judge your son's last two years? Was it really a "necessary" or "unavoidable" requirement to replace Saddam with Shi'ite fundamentalists? If America had spent $200 Billion on missionaries instead of soldiers and "smart" bombs, would the result have been more Christian in character? (Or at least less Islamic?)

While watching the colossal statue of Saddam Hussein on the central square of Baghdad being taken down with sledge hammers and cables by exuberant Iraqis, eager to release their pent up hate toward their brutal dictator who had tortured and killed over 10 per cent of their people, I could not help but ask myself: Was the "Operation Iraqi Freedom" biblically justified? The toppling of that statue was a military and media propaganda piece.

From: Journalists Reveal Their True Colors

On April 9, a US tank recovery vehicle tightened a metal rope and a statue of Saddam Hussein came crashing down in central Baghdad. The event was celebrated by "dozens" of Iraqi people at the scene, according to BBC online, but by hundreds of mainstream journalists in Britain and America. A rare, long shot photograph of the event shows a small crowd of people around the statue surrounded by empty space, then tanks, and then more empty space.
The BBC's News At Six described this propaganda coup outside the journalists' hotel as a "momentous event", with the media "a witness to history", with US forces watching "amazed" on a "day of extraordinary drama and historic images", with Bush declaring "a historic moment" in reference to what were "extraordinary events" (April 9). This was all in the first 90 seconds of the programme.
Compare and contrast the above with the BBC's response to the march, not of dozens, but of 2 million British people in London on February 15:
"The people have spoken, or have they? What about the millions who didn't march? Was going to the DIY store or watching the football on Saturday a demonstration of support for the government?" (David Grossman, Newsnight, February 17, 2003)

We should also recall the staged events that led to the first Gulf War. America was shown the pleas of a Kuwaiti woman who said she witnessed babies being ripped from incubators by Saddam's Gestapo in a Kuwaiti hospital. The story was re-told by President Bush and heard in Congress. It turned out to be a Public Relations stunt staged by a D.C. advertising agency under contract with the Kuwaiti government. The "Kuwaiti peasant woman" seen in the video news releases (VNRs) produced by the PR firm was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family, a daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador. The events described never happened.

The Selling of the Gulf War--Part Two

Was it right for the coalition forces to invest enormous human and financial resources to liberate the Iraqis and prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction? There were no WMD in Iraq. There may have been before the war, but now they may be in the hands of terrorists around the world.

The only real WMD that Saddam has definitively possessed were not dramatically different from weapons used in World War I: poison gas bombs.

Wanniski.com: Did Saddam Gas His People?

Was the Iraqi war a violation of the biblical principle to love our enemies and to not to "repay anyone evil for evil" (Matt 5:44; Rom 12:17)?

Matthew 5:44

44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[a]

Romans 12:17-21

17Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,"[a] says the Lord. 20Therefore
       "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
       If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
       For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."[b]
    21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


It clearly was. That's why Bacchiocchi is writing his article. Pacifism is "prima facie" the Christian position. (A Latin legal term meaning "at first glance." In a court of law, the prosecution must present a "prima facie" case. If the prosecution fails, the defendant walks without having to utter a single word in his own defense.) Bacchiocchi has to write his article because a "prima facie" Christian case against war is common knowledge.

Begin study of Romans 12 here.

Saddam did us no evil, so we "repaid" evil to Saddam he never paid us.

The United States has arguably done more harm to the Iraqi people than Saddam ever did. First because the U.S. federal government helped put Saddam in power in the first place, came to his aid when Iran attempted to oust him, and caused the deaths of over 1.3 million Iraqis through militarily-imposed economic sanctions. U.S. foreign policy has resulted in extraordinary evil precisely because it denies the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the religion of Secular Humanism (of which Islam is one of many varieties).

  Since the invention of the myth of "separation of Church and State," U.S. foreign policy has been explicitly non-Biblical (in contrast to U.S. foreign policy toward pagans and the heathen in the decades immediately following the signing of the Constitution). Since 1957, when the U.S. federal government began funding Saddam Hussein and his efforts to assassinate an Iraqi leader who was deemed to be "unfriendly to U.S. interests," U.S. foreign policy in Iraq has been utterly unChristian. The U.S. government helped put Saddam in power, and helped keep him there when neighboring Iran was trying to do exactly what we spent the last few years doing: taking Saddam out of power. The number of innocent non-combatant civilians killed in Iraq and Iran and the property damage wrought by the last 40 years of military intervention by the U.S. -- a nation that once believed "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not steal" -- have been horrifying. U.S. foreign policy has strengthened the religion of Islam throughout the mideast. Reed R. Heustis, Jr. has written:
I couldn't believe my own ears when I heard it myself.

Goosebumps riddled my body, and my blood curdled.

Earlier this week on ABC News, our "Christian" President George W. Bush proclaimed in front of a national audience that Christians and Muslims worship "the same god". (To see and view the interview online, please click here)

Bush also said that Muslims and non-Christians both go to heaven because "we have different routes of getting there."

These statements are utter rejections of the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

George Washington, asked to address the Chiefs of the Delaware Indians about educating their youth, told them:

You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. . . . Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.
The Writings of GeoWashington, Jared Sparks, ed., (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, 1838) XV:55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, May 12, 1779.

You will not hear George Bush telling anyone that the problem in the Mideast is Islam, and the solution to problems in the Mideast is Christianity. I would never die for U.S. secular humanist foreign policy, and I certainly wouldn't kill Muslims for it. No Christian can follow Christ and simultaneously drop American-made bombs on Iraqi neighborhoods.

Christians are divided in their answers to these questions. Some believe that the Iraqi war met the historical "Christian" criteria of a just war. For example, Dr Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is one of several Christian leaders who wrote to President Bush affirming that, "we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein . . . are prudent and fall well within the time-honored criteria of just war theory." "Just War Theory" is discussed below.
By contrast, the leaders of over 60 prominent Christian organizations have also written to the President, urging him not to attack Iraq. In their view such an attack against Iraq would violate the traditional Christian doctrine of a just war. Tragically, I would not consider most of these organizations to be "Bible-believing" Christian organizations. Most anti-war groups are, like the Bush Administration, Secular Humanists.
With due respect for the sincerity of all these leaders, one wonders if any war that inevitably involves the slaughter of innocent victims, can legitimately be called "just war." The fact is that all wars are intrinsically evil, because they stem from selfishness and pride. They reflect our fallen, rebellious human nature, which affects international as well as interpersonal relationships. James 4:1-2 makes this point clearly, saying: "Where do these wars and battles within yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting within yourselves? You want something and you haven't got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition you can't satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force" (Jerusalem Bible). A striking admission.

How can that which is "intrinsically evil" ever be justified? If it can be justified, how can it be called intrinsically evil? This is evidence of sloppy analysis.

Whenever there is a battle between nations, or between two businesses, or labor and managements, or husband and wife, or parent and child, someone (maybe both) is exhibiting pride and selfishness. You want your way and I want my way. Let us fight for it and see who is going to win. Wars that are fought on the battlefield are first waged in the human heart. This sounds good at first, but it is false and misleading. When a husband and wife are "at war" for a time, no innocent children are slaughtered, and billions of dollars of private property are not seized or destroyed. Nobody even gets frisked before getting on an airplane.
Arthur Holmes perceptively remarks that "To call war anything less than evil would be self-deception. The Christian conscience has throughout history recognized the tragic character of war. The issue that tears the Christian conscience is not whether war is good, but whether it is in all cases avoidable."1 In what sense is war "unavoidable?" Don't pull the trigger! Don't drop the bomb!
  On the other hand, if war is truly "unavoidable" or "necessary" then it is not evil, but good. If it truly is necessary to kill a thousand people (who probably don't like Saddam any more than you do) they should be killed quickly and effectively, because it's necessary to do so. You shouldn't put off doing something that's "necessary."

But this analysis lacks moral clarity. Is adultery ever "unavoidable?" The war in Iraq could have been avoided. Wars against dozens of murderous Marxist dictators in Africa have so far been "avoided." The war in Korea has so far been "avoided," though it is arguably much more "necessary." The war against Communist China has so far been "avoided," though even more "necessary" than the war against Korea. Everything that was evil about Saddam, everything that justified war against him, is evil on a far greater scale in Communist China. Repression, murder, and direct threat of nuclear attack against the United States. All real. 

Scripture suggests that war, though evil, sometimes is unavoidable. Whenever anyone says "Scripture suggests," that means "Scripture doesn't say." Scripture says war is evil. Scripture says avoid it. Those who want to go to war anyway will find something in Scripture to use as a bumper-sticker, which "suggests" to those who don't know the Bible (or don't really want to take it seriously) that the desired war should not be opposed.
It is significant that the first war was fought in heaven itself to terminate the rebellion initiated by the pride and selfishness of Lucifer (Is 14:12-15; Ez 28:11-18). It is significant that those two passages are primarily directed against the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre. But let's assume everything Bacchiocchi wants to assume.
"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven" (Rev 12:7-8). This passage can be interpreted a number of ways. Preterists believe the events of the book of Revelation describe events in the first century: the tribulation spoken of by Jesus was something He said would occur during "this generation." But let's assume everything Bacchiocchi wants to assume.
War proved to be a necessity in heaven itself in order to suppress the rebellion of Lucifer who was seeking to attain a more exalted position. Apparently God recognized that no further negotiations with Lucifer were possible. The only solution left was to expel him by force from the heavenly realm. If war proved to be an unavoidable necessity to terminate Lucifer's rebellion in heaven, where a loving God reigns supreme, then it can hardly be avoided on this earth where some despotic rulers are prepared to slaughter countless human lives to expand their power and territories. Two things can be said about this "war in heaven." First, God says "vengeance is mine." Just because God fights a war doesn't mean we humans get to. "Maggot," a character in the movie "The Dirty Dozen" imprisoned for killing several people, when confronted with this verse said "it doesn't say anything about the means God uses to take vengeance." He saw himself as God's "instrument" of vengeance. How convenient. The Neo-Nazi Matthew Hale can profess innocence in the face of this verse when he orders a follower to murder the husband of a federal judge. He is simply God's "means" to a just end. It was "really" God taking vengeance, not Matthew Hale.
  Second, "war" isn't the best way to conceptualize what happened in heaven (even if, like "dragons" and "beasts with ten horns," it's an appropriate figure of speech for John to use in the book of Revelation). Imagine you own a factory, and one of your workers stops doing his job and spends all his time going around telling other workers lies about you. You'd fire that worker, right? Suppose that after you fire him, the worker keeps showing up at your factory, but not to work, just to tell lies about you. You would instruct your security guards to keep that person out of the factory. Suppose that person brings a few friends to push your security guards out of the way? Well, the point is God had legitimate reasons for kicking Satan out (Satan "violated his contract"), but Satan did not respect the property rights of heaven's owners. God has the right to defend heaven against trespassers. If Saddam Hussein shows up at your home and demands your personal computer for use by his Republican Guards, you have a right to say he's wrong. But how does God's defense of heavenly property rights justify George Bush demanding a third of MY paycheck so that HIS security guards can kill Iraqi children, destroy Iraqi neighborhoods, and replace Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship with a Muslim government of Shi'ite theocrats? I just don't get it. Bacchiocchi isn't making any sense, because superficial slogans are replacing a more rigorous analysis of the realities.

To sum up, God can engage in war because "vengeance is Mine." You are allowed to install burglar alarms in your home, but you have no right to confiscate my paycheck to pay for them. If your home is broken into, you don't have the Biblical right to bomb the intruder's neighborhood. Iraq doesn't fit any of these categories.

The war that began in heaven has continued on this earth, because this planet became Satan's new theater of operation. Since then, war has been a perennial reality of human existence. From the earliest recorded events of human history all the way to modern times, tribes and nations have engaged in armed conflicts to resolve their disputes. None of this proves that all these wars have been "unavoidable," "necessary," or "justified."
It might be helpful to note briefly that Isaiah 13-14, a prophecy against the king of Babylon, was fulfilled in 539 B.C. just as Isaiah had prophesied. Part of Isaiah's prophecy reads:
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
Old Testament prophets frequently used the language of "de-creation" to describe the collapse of a great empire. Isaiah's prophecy was not fulfilled "literally," that is to say, the fulfillment was political, not astronomical. Jesus used the same kind of political language to describe the fall of Israel:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matt. 24:39).
Bacchiocchi believes we're in the "last days" because he fails to recognize that Jesus' prophecy has already been fulfilled.
Objective of this Study. This Bible study is divided in two parts. The first looks at the Iraqi war from a biblical perspective. The fundamental question we wish to address is whether or not there is a biblical justification for Christian nations to engage in a war of liberation against a ruthless regime like that of Saddam Hussein who oppressed his people and threaten other countries.  
The second part examines briefly the teachings of the Old and New Testaments regarding warfare. Pacifists tend to exclude the Old Testament in defining their position. They assume that the OT teachings regarding war were primitive and have been replaced by the superior, peaceful teachings of the NT. Such a view ignores that "all Scripture is given by divine inspiration" (2 Tim 3:16). An attentive study shows that the NT complements, rather than contradicts the teachings of the OT regarding warfare. Our aim is to establish if the Bible justifies waging war against a ruthless dictator who liquidates dissenters in his own nation and threatens the security of other nations. Our response is written from the perspective of "Theonomy," a theological perspective which affirms the abiding validity of the Old Testament "in exhaustive detail." Bacchiocchi cannot say he treats the Old Testament more reverently than Theonomists.

It is not the case that we believe the Old Testament was "primitive" if we say that we are not obligated to bring bleating lambs to a temple in Jerusalem and shed their blood.


The presence of injustice in this world, where ruthless dictators like Saddam Hussein violate the rights of innocent people with impunity, raises the question: What is the Christian responsibility toward people suffering under oppressive political regimes? The real question is, with respect to those who disagree, what are the rights of those who believe a dictator should be overthrown by military force? In other words, you may believe you have moral obligation to assassinate Hitler or Hussein, but do you have the right to force me to pull the trigger? Do you have the right to confiscate my property in order to buy the gun you need for your project? What gives the U.S. federal government the right to tax those who are morally opposed to the (unconstitutional) killing of thousands of Iraqi women and children?
Can Christians morally ignore ruthless dictators who slaughter dissenters and threaten the security of other nations? Should Christian nations that have technological, financial, and human resources engage in wars of liberation like the current "operation Iraqi freedom"? I don't believe Christians can "morally ignore" any evil. But that's not the question. The question is whether I have the right to kill those who do evil, while killing innocent people in the process, using funds forcibly confiscated from those who oppose my military action.
The answer of some "Christian" nations like France and Germany, is "NO!" They believe that it is not the responsibility of Western countries to disarm a ruthless dictator like Saddam Hussein. They claim that such problems must be resolved through the diplomacy of the United Nations. The United Nations is an evil organization, spreading dictatorship, terrorism and tyranny across the globe, and destroying the Christian religion and morality wherever it goes. It should never have been formed, and the U.S. should terminate all support for an organization of illegitimate dictators with a penchant for communism.
  President Bush repeatedly affirmed that U.S. military action in Iraq was in defense of the United Nations. He sent American troops into Iraq for the stated purpose of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions to disarm Iraq of its reputed WMDs. His intent was to strengthen the UN by making sure its words "had meaning."

"All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?... We want the resolutions of the world’s most important multilateral body to be enforced."

— President George W. Bush address to the UN General Assembly,
September 12, 2002

"I want the United Nations to be effective.... It makes sense for there to be an international body that has got the backbone and the capacity to help keep the peace.... The message to the world is that we want the U.N. to succeed."

— President George W. Bush speech in Aberdeen, South Dakota,
October 31, 2002

"America will be making only one determination: is Iraq meeting the terms of the Security Council resolution [1441] or not?... If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein."

— President George W. Bush
November 8, 2002, the day the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441

"The decision is this for the United Nations: When you say something does it mean anything? You’ve got to decide, if you lay down a resolution, does it mean anything? The United Nations Security Council can now decide whether or not it has the resolve to enforce its resolutions.

"I’m optimistic that the U.N. Security Council will rise to its responsibilities, and this time ensure enforcement of what it told Saddam Hussein he must do. See, I believe when it’s all said and done, free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society."

— President George W. Bush speech at Naval Station Mayport, Jacksonville, Florida,
 February 13, 2003

"Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq are free."

— President George W. Bush
State of the Union address, January 20, 2004

Unfortunately, they seem to forget the lesson of recent history. By waiting for diplomacy to work, European nations gave the chance to Hitler to liquidate over six millions Jews, besides millions of their own people. Hitler came to power largely because of inopportune U.S. intervention in World War I. In 1937 Winston Churchill told an American reporter:
"America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the [first] World War. If you hadn't entered the war the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the Spring of 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned Nazism in Germany. If America had stayed out of the war, all these "isms" wouldn't today be sweeping the continent in Europe and breaking down parliamentary government, and if England had made peace early in 1917, it would have saved over one million British, French, American, and other lives."
In an article entitled, "Rating the Presidents," Patrick J. Buchanan comments on those who always list Wilson among the "near great" presidents:
While our entry into World War I ensured Allied victory, Wilson brought home from Versailles a vindictive peace that betrayed his principles, his 14 Points and his solemn word to the German government when it agreed to an armistice. That treaty tore Germany apart and led directly to Hitler and a horrific war of revenge 20 years later. Moreover, Wilson's stubborn refusal to accept any compromise language to protect U.S. sovereignty led to Senate rejection of both his treaty and the League of Nations. Why, then, is this obdurate man "near great"?
If the American armed forces had not joined the British army to stop the Hitler's war of conquest, today most European countries, and possibly even the United States, would be living under the iron-fist, oppressive Nazi regime. The undeniable result of U.S. intervention in World War II was the spread of communism all over Eastern Europe. Communism turned out to be worse than Nazism.


Recent conflicts have clearly shown that there comes a time when diplomacy is ineffective and only armed intervention can stop the ambitions of ruthless dictators like Hitler, Milosovich, Idi Amin, General Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. Clinton's military intervention against Milosovich has spread Islamic narco-terrorism throughout the region.

Like the war in Iraq, the real intended beneficiary of U.S. military intervention was NATO. Congressman Helen Chenoweth writes:

On March 23rd [1999], the order to commence hostilities was given to an American general by a Spanish Marxist — NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. "I have just directed the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, General [Wesley] Clark, to initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," announced Solana, who insisted that the attack "is intended to support the political aims of the international community." Congress played no role in defining those political aims, which means that the American people — in whose name Congress is empowered to act — were not permitted to play any role in the decision to commit our nation to war.

Further, while the Serbs were generally Christian, the U.S was on the side of Islamic terrorists.

No Christian can support U.S. military action in Kosovo.


It appears to me that taking a stand against ruthless, dictatorial regimes is a moral necessity for Christians. Dietrich Bonhoeffer could have saved his life by following the strategy of some political and religious leaders, like the Pope himself, who tried diplomatic solutions that entailed partial cooperation with Hitler. But, he chose to take a stand against the atrocities being committed by Hitler's regime. We salute him for his willingness to pay the price of imprisonment and ultimately death. I admire Bonhoeffer's stand against Hitler at a time when churches had been bought off. 99% of all churches today have been bought off, I think Bonhoeffer would agree. Bonhoeffer opposed the Secular Humanist State, and today only a handful of Christians are as bold as Bonhoeffer.

But assassinating the President is a violation of Romans 13.

It is unfortunate that all too often Christian people and nations have chosen to ignore the slaughtering of innocent people by ruthless dictators. Do you remember the killing fields of Kampuchea, where General Pol Pot slaughtered over two million innocent Cambodians, because they were ideological unsound? Would it have been unjust for Christians nations to joined together to stop that massacre by eliminating Pol Pot himself? Isn't a Christian responsibility "to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke"? (Is 58:6). The communist dictator Pol Pot would not have come to power if it weren't for the U.S. pro-communist foreign policy. America was supposed to be a "city upon a hill," spreading Christianity around the world. The Soviet Union has been a socialist city upon a hill, exporting communism around the world, including Southeast Asia. The Soviet Union is virtually a puppet state of the U.S. Secular Humanist ruling establishment. George Bush and John Kerry are both members of the "Skull & Bones," an obviously Christian-sounding organization that promotes an ideology of violence and secular socialism. When a young American goes off to fight a U.S. war, that American is not fighting for Christianity, or even against atheistic communism. The ruling establishment of the U.S. is not Christian, it is communist, and the U.S. has adopted most of the Communist Manifesto. Stalin opposed Hitler. That did not make Stalin a good-guy, and a Christian should not have fought for Stalin. A Christian should not fight for the Secular Humanist United States military-industrial complex.
Was the "operation Iraqi freedom" morally justified? For me the answer is suggested by the record of Saddam Hussein ruthless regime. In his letter to The Australian newspaper (October 29, 2002), Dr Leanne Piggott, Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Sydney, offers this succinct account of Saddam's atrocities: "At the end of the Gulf war in 1991 the Shiites of southern Iraq rose up in rebellion against Saddam to try to shake off the dictatorship under which they had been living. The uprising was brutally crushed by the Iraqi army and Saddam's nine internal security services. For example, in Amara (near Basra), they made the Shiites, or anyone who looked religious, lie down in the streets and then buried them alive under asphalt. Some 60,000 to 70,000 people were killed in and around Amara in 1991. During the 1990s, the regime killed about 300,000 Shiites in southern Iraq. See Jude Wanniski's letter above.

Over one million Iraqis were killed by U.S. military-imposed sanctions against Iraq. Secular Humanists in Washington D.C. have done more evil than Islamic fundamentalists (or secularists) in Iraq.

"In the Anfal campaign in the late 1980s, the Iraqi regime destroyed 4,000 Kurdish villages in the north of the country. Between 100,000 and 150,000 Kurds were killed, some with poison gas. Around a million more people were sent into internal exile. More children were killed by U.S. sanctions than adults by Saddam.
"Since 1979, Saddam has been directly responsible for the deaths of approximately one million Iraqi citizens and a further one million Iraqi soldiers who died in wars which he instigated against Iran and Kuwait. Between 1.5 and 2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and a further 4.5 million Iraqi refugees are scattered across the globe. Altogether, 10 per cent of the Iraqi population has been killed or deported." Keep in mind that the U.S. gave aid to Saddam to fight Iran. The U.S. also gave Saddam permission to invade Kuwait. On July 25, 1990, just eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, spoke with Hussein about his intentions, stating the U.S. official policy that "we have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America." On July 31, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs John Kelly testified to Congress that the "United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."

The U.S. has also been involved in the killing of about a million people in East Timor, also related to U.S. oil interests.


Nothing in this response should be interpreted as a justification or defense of Saddam's dictatorial tyranny. But the U.S. is also a tyranny, and no Christian should kill innocent people in defense of a nation that has expressly and officially repudiated its Christian heritage, and whose foreign policy is demonstrably hostile to Christian morality.

In the light of this appalling record, didn't the Iraqi people deserve some justice? In a word, no.

The Iraqis are Islamic pagans, more recently infected with Western materialism and selfish individualism. Nothing in the Bible suggests that such a people "deserves" freedom. Much in the Bible suggests that Saddam Hussein is their well-deserved reward. And nothing in the Bible justified George Bush in confiscating my income to kill innocent non-combatant women and children in now-decimated Iraqi neighborhoods.

Romans 13 means nothing if the U.S. military is allowed to overthrow a dictator they formerly put into power.

How much longer should their repression and suffering have continued? Until they repent and believe the Gospel.
Shouldn't we as Christians thank God for the courageous leadership of President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair? Both men are practicing Secular Humanists. Both men have publicly repudiated the foundational difference between Christianity and Islam. Neither would be applauded by a single person who signed America's Constitution. Both would be regarded by America's founders as demogugues, despotic dictators, and traitors to the principles of America's "organic law."
Both men faced enormous opposition at home and abroad. Millions of people in the major capitals of the world demonstrated against their determination to disarm Saddam Hussein and liberate the Iraqis. Both men risked their own political careers for what they rightly believed to be a just cause. Those who disagrees with the objectives and outcome of the Iraqi war, should take time to watch on TV the scenes of jubilation by Iraqis celebrating their liberation. We examined these "scenes" above.
We only wish that America would be equally concerned to defend the right of other oppressed people like the Palestinians who have no economic benefits to offer in return. The same is true of the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Cambodia, and earlier in Uganda by Idi Amin. It would seem that when millions of innocent people are slaughtered in countries that do not pose a threat to Western nations, the cry of these innocent victims goes unheard. If Bacchiocchi wants to buy guns and rally his friends to go to these places and defend innocents against murderers, that's respectable. Forcing me to pay for his expedition is theft. Failing to recognize the complicity of the secular establishment in Washington D.C. for these atrocities is not good Christianity.

Bacchiocchi implicitly recognizes that the U.S. secular military goes to war to protect "economic benefits" (e.g., oil) not "justice" or "innocent life."

The Providential Role of the United States

During the past fifty years America has played the leading role in liberating oppressed people. European nations were liberated from Nazism; South Korea was liberated from North Korea and Japan; Soviet countries were liberated from communist regimes; Balcan countries were liberated from the ruthless war of Milosovich, Middle East countries like Kuwait and Iraq have been liberated by the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein.  
Comparatively speaking the participation of European countries in these wars of liberation has been minimal. European politicians, including my Italian countrymen, are great philosophers. They talk a lot about international problems, but they do very little about them. Michael Novak, a perceptive TV commentator, rightly observes that the "Europeans are living in a kind of welfare paradise, which they are not willing to give up. Since 1945, they have by and large been content for the people of the United States to pay the huge expenses of defending them from the Soviet Union and other threats. Meanwhile, they have concentrated on building a prosperous and comfortable life, at a level of popular wealth never known before in the history of Europe.  
"The Europeans do not wish to spend for military defense. Therefore, they have adopted a new philosophy of peace, reliance on the United Nations and the European Community, and comfort in their own military weakness. By these means, they hope to overcome the heritage of past wars within Europe.  
"This leaves the United States to deal with the forces of disorder and hatred being spewed out by the doctrine of Wahhabism, nurtured in the bosom of certain Islamic countries. This doctrine teaches terrorism and subversion, along with a national socialist philosophy of social organization. It has inspired the Baath party of Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the ruling party in Sudan, the madrassas of Pakistan and above all Saudi Arabia, and others."2  
Partly as a result of the horrors of the World Wars, Western European nations have largely embraced pacifist ideas that oppose war. Most European believe, as Dennis Prager observes, that "wars are wrong, that any evil - from Communism to Saddam Hussein or North Korea owning weapons of mass destruction - is better than fighting. America, on the other hand, believes that it is sometimes better to fight evil. The last time many Europeans demonstrated against America was when President Ronald Reagan put Pershing missiles in Europe. Europeans thought that confronting the Soviets was provocative and wrong." 3  

European Secularism and Moral Relativism

European pacifism largely stem from the rampant secularism that relativizes the distinction between good and evil taught by the Christian faith. Prager explains: "Europe passionately affirms secularism, while America remains the most religious among the industrialized democracies. In this sphere, too, either America or Europe is right. And the predominance of America, a religious country - one that affirms the religion the European elites have rejected - infuriates the Europeans.  
"Positing no transcendent or religious basis for an objective and universal standard of good and evil, Europe disdains moral absolutes and moral judgments. Whether it was President Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" or President Bush labeling North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil," Europeans (and the American Left, whose values are identical) found such moral labeling contemptible.  
"Indeed our president personifies all that Europe dislikes in America. He comes from the business world, wears an American flag on his lapel, is ready to go to war against an evil regime, and believes deeply in God, in Christianity and America's Judeo-Christian identity." 4  
Ultimately, the opposition of most Europeans to the "operation Iraqi freedom" reflects the rejection of those moral and religious values that still characterizes America. Christian values still influence the social and political policies of the American people, because about 50 per cent of them go to church or to the synagogue. This is hardly the case in Europe where less than 10 per cent of the people attend church. In my own country of Italy it is estimated that 95 per cent of the people go to church three times in their life: when they are hatched, matched, and dispatched. The absence in Western Europe of strong moral and religious values facilitates the tolerance of various forms of evils, including the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein.  

Is the Lord Using America Today?

In the light of the leading role America has played in liberating people like the Iraqis and in protecting mankind from the threat of weapons of mass destruction, we may ask: Is the Lord using America today - a country founded by people who escaped from persecution - to liberate oppressed people?  
The Scripture supports this possibility by teaching that God has used certain nations to bring an end to evil empires whose wickedness had reached the limit of His mercy. The handwritings on the wall told Belshazzar that he "had been weighed on the scales and found wanting" (Dan 5:27). Because of his defiant acts against God and His people, God used Darius the Mede to bring to an end the Babylonian empire (Dan 5:31). For the same reason soon afterwards God used Cyrus to subdue the Babylonians and the Medes. Cyrus allowed exiled Jews to return to their homeland and to rebuild their Temple at Jerusalem (2 Chr 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-5). Surprisingly, in Isaiah 45, Cyrus is called the Lord's "anointed."  
"This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him, to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and I will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron . . . so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name" (Is 45:1-3; NIV).  
In this prophecy, Cyrus is announced by name and is called the Lord's "anointed," because he was called to bring to an end wicked empires and to enable the Jews to return to their homeland. It is evident that God recognizes that when the wickedness of a nation or an empire has reached the limits of His mercy, an armed intervention by another nation becomes a necessity to bring such evil regime to an end. In the Bible the rise and fall of nations is the outcome , not of natural causes, but of God's intervention to bring to an end wicked and ruthless governments (Ps 75:6-7; Gen 15:16; Acts 17:26-27; Prov 14:34).  
A clear enunciation of this principle is found in Genesis 15:13-16, where the Lord told Abraham in a dream that his "descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years . . . In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sins of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (NIV).5  
In His long-suffering God was willing to wait four hundred years until the iniquity of the various tribes inhabiting Palestine (Gen 15:19-20) had reached the limits of His mercy. At that time the Lord instructed the Israelites to destroy these tribes in order to protect them from adopting the same abominations. "Completely destroy them - the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites - as the Lord has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God" (Deut 20:17-18).  
The fact that God has used in the past, not only the Israelites, but also other nations to bring to an end tribes, nations, and empires whose sins had reached the limits of His mercy, gives us reason to believe that the Lord has used the coalition forces to bring to an end Saddam Hussein's ruthless regime and help the Iraqis establish a democratic form of government.  
The purpose of the "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was not to conquer Iraq and its natural resources, but to protect America, Western countries, the Iraqis, and the people of the region, from a dictator who has demonstrated his willingness to use whatever means necessary to rule over as many people as possible. President Bush made this point plain in his State of the Union Address, when he said: "And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country - your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation."6  
The world in which we live has changed drastically. It would be a tragic mistake to wait for a dictator like Saddam Ussein to begin using weapons of mass destructions, before Christian nations try to stop him. History teaches that if dictators are not stopped before they execute their deadly plans, it is much more costly to stop them later.  
As Christians we can take comfort in the fact that President Bush is depending, not simply on his own wisdom and that of his advisers, but also on divine guidance. In the closing words of his State of the Union Address, Bush said: "We Americans have faith in ourselves - but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.7  
The providential role that America is fulfilling today as protector of peace, champion of justice, and liberator of some oppressed people, should not cause us to forget the reverse role it will play in the future. Over hundred years ago Ellen White predicted that "our nation [United States] will disconnect herself from righteousness. . . . our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government."8 When this happens, we know that the end is near.  


The preceding reflections on the legitimacy of the "operation Iraqi freedom," provides a basis for a fuller investigation into the biblical teachings regarding warfare. Historically, Christians have been divided on their interpretation of what the Bible teaches about war. The spectrum of Christian interpretations range from absolute rejection of war to full participation with church blessings and authority. These extreme interpretations are reflected on the one hand in the pacifist words of the American folk hymn "Gonna lay down my sword and shield by the riverside, ain't gonna study war no more," and on the other hand in the battle cry of the Crusaders "God wills it."  
Between these two extreme interpretations, there are the moderate positions of those who believe that the Bible teaches nonresistance or participation only in a just war. The "just war" interpretation is the moderating position that has prevailed throughout Christian history.  
To understand what the Bible teaches about war, we shall briefly examine some of the relevant passage found in both the Old and New Testaments. The intent is to provide a biblical overview of warfare to enable us to formulate a responsible Christian position.  


The Example of Abraham

The first mention of a war conflict in the Bible is in Genesis 14 where Chedorlamoer, king of Elam and a coalition of other kings, made war against the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. Lot, Abram's nephew, was captured together with his family members and goods. When Abram learned that Lot had been taken captive, he went to war against Chedorlamoer, king of Elam. The military operation was successful in rescuing Lot, his people, and their goods.  
There is no mention that the Lord directed Abram to take this action, but when he returned, Melchizedek king of Salem, who "was priest of God Most High," blessed Abram saying: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth . . . who has delivered your enemies into your hand" (Gen 14:19-20). In Genesis 15, God further blesses Abram in a vision. The story suggests that the Lord blessed Abram rescue operation, though there is no evidence of God directing this action.  

The Lord as Warrior

Most of the references to war in the Old Testament concern the Israelites fighting in the Wilderness, in the entrance into Canaan, and against various enemies of the nation such as the Canaanites, Philistines, Amalekites, and Arameans. In numerous texts God is portrayed as a Warrior who leads His people to battle and fights for them. It is important to note that this is the way the Lord reveals Himself to His people liberated from Egypt. The role of the Lord as Warrior establishes a model in the Bible for future warfare.  
In the well-known Song of Moses and Miriam the Lord is praised for his military accomplishments: "I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. . . . The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea" (Ex 15:1-4; NIV Emphasis supplied). The focus of this song is on God as the leader of the army who prosecutes the war and utterly destroys the Egyptian army.  
The image of God as a Warrior forms the basis for His presence among His people in leading them to success in their battles (Ex 17:8-16; Num 21:1, 23, 33). This perspective culminates in Nathan's prophecy where the Lord identifies with the line of David in such a way that the wars of Israel become the wars of God (2 Sam 7:5-16). Several Psalms celebrate the victory that God has promised to His people through the line of David (Ps 2, 78, 110).  
The Lord as Warrior fights not only for His people, but also against them when they turn away from Him. The destruction of the Northern and Southern kingdoms are described in moral terms that suggest a direct relationship between Israel's sin and God allowing the kingdoms to fall in the hands of their enemies. For example, 2 Kings explains that "Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria" because "the people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jeroboam did; they did not depart from them" (2 Kings 17:22-23).  
What was true for the Northern Kingdom of Israel became true two centuries later also for the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Because of their rebellion, the Lord dispatched the Babylonians with the charge to punish the Jews (Jer 4:5; 5:17, 26-30). God directs the army of Babylon (Jer 25:14-38) and calls Nebuchadnezzar His servant (Jer 27:6-10).  
The two pictures of the Lord fighting for and against Israel, reflect His commitment to preserve His holiness by placing a limit to human wickedness (Gen 15:16; Deut 28:49-68). The prophets capture this theme in their description of the Day of the Lord in which God executes His judgment upon all peoples, by destroying the evildoers and saving the faithful (Mal 4:1-3).  

Israel at War

War is seen in the OT as an unavoidable evil. People are instructed, not to be pacifist, but to wage a war in a responsible way, when necessity calls for it. For example, Deuteronomy 20 offers specific guidelines on how to wage a war. Instructions are given to spare, not only women and children, but even the trees. "When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them; for you may eat of them, but you shall not cut them down" (Deut 20:19).  
Every facet of war had religious significance. The conflict was initiated and led by God (Ex 17:16; Num 31:3). Sacrifices were offered to ensure God's support (1 Sam 7:8-10; 13:9, 12). The Lord Himself leads out in the wars (Is 13:3; Jer 51:27). The ark of the covenant, symbolizing God's presence was often taken into battle (1 Sam 4:3). The Lord raises up charismatic leaders to conduct the war (Deut 31:7; Jud 6:14). The Bible does not glorify war. It simply recognizes it as a necessary evil, which is part of the greater cosmic conflict between good and evil.  
When comparing the accounts of warfare found in the Bible with those of the ancient Near-Eastern empires, one finds that there is far less brutality in the Israel's practice of war.9 Moreover, all the wars subsequent to the taking of the land of Cannan, are defensive wars. Contrary to the wars of conquests of the Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greek, Israel's military campaigns were always in self-defence against aggressors entering their homeland (Josh 10:3-5; 11:1-5).  
The prophets express concern over unnecessary brutality and bloodshed. They look forward to the day when the endless cycle of war and bloodshed would be broken: "The law will go out of Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge the nations and will settle disputes for many nations. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Is 2:3-4; NIV).  
Summing up, the Old Testament speaks of war in a realistic way, as reflective of the conflict between good and evil. There are times when war becomes necessary to stop human rebellion and wickedness and restore a degree of peace and justice. As expressed in Ecclesiastes "There is a time for everything . . . a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecc 3:1, 8).  


Many Christians believe that the New Testament teachings on warfare differ radically from that of the Old Testament. Simply stated, armed conflicts are justified in the Old Testament in certain situation, but they are never approved in the New Testament. This distinction posits two different concepts of God. The OT God is allegedly a Warrior, while the NT God is a Peacemaker.  
Is such a radical distinction between the Old and New Testaments' understanding of God and warfare justifiable? If the difference were true, then we are forced, like Marcion in the second century, to reject the OT God as cruel and inferior to the loving God of the NT. But this dualistic view has long been rejected by Christian churches because it negates the unity and total inspiration of the Scripture. A balanced reading of the NT texts suggests that there is a basic agreement between the Old and New Testaments on their teaching on warfare. The length limitations of this Bible study allows us only to briefly review some of the relevant passages.  

Jews and Christians Serving in the Army

During the Apostolic period we find Jews and new Christian converts serving in the Roman army. When Jewish soldiers, who most likely were serving under Herod Antipas, came to John the Baptist to be baptized, they asked like the rest of the people what changes they should make in their lives: "Soldiers also asked him: 'and we, what shall we do?'" (Luke 3:14). John replied: "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).  
If serving in the Roman army was seen as inappropriate for believers, this would have been a perfect opportunity for John to tell soldiers to resign from the military service and choose a more suitable profession. After all there was no obligatory conscription into the army. The military service was voluntary. But John counseled the soldiers not to take advantage of their armed status to do violence and to rob people. Instead, they should be content with their wages.  
The significance of John's counsel cannot be minimized. If contrary to the Old Testament, the New Testament teaches pacifism, then John the Baptist and later Jesus and the apostles would have counseled those serving in the army to get out of it immediately. The absence of such counsel suggests that military service was were seen as an unavoidable evil in this sinful world.  
The attitude of Jesus toward those serving in the army was similar to that of John the Baptist. When a Roman centurion came to Christ, begging Him to heal his paralyzed servant, Jesus did not rebuke him for being a soldier. Instead, He commended his faith saying: "Truly, not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Matt 8:10). Christ's statement is significant, because it shows that being a soldier is not incompatible with being a man of faith. After all, a vital function of the Roman soldiers stationed in various parts of the empire was to keep law and order. In Acts Roman soldiers repeatedly intervened to protect Paul from mob lynching.  
Another revealing example is the story Cornelius reported in Acts 10. Cornelius was a Roman centurion who apparently embraced the Jewish faith by becoming a "God-fearer," that is, an uncircumcised Jew. He is described as "a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation" (Acts 10:22). He was a devout man who prayed constantly (Acts 10:30-32). The Lord answered his prayer by sending Peter to him.  
When Peter saw that Cornelius and his household had received the Holy Spirit, he asks: "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47). No one objected to their baptism because they were serving in the Roman Army. After their baptism Cornelius and his household apparently continued to serve in the army. There is no mention in the NT of any soldiers who were admonished to leave their military profession in order to become Christians. In fact, Paul counsels new converts, saying; "Brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Cor 7:24).  

Jesus' Attitude Toward Warfare

On the night of His betrayal Jesus made two statements about self-defense which at first glance appear to be contradictory. Knowing that soon He would leave His disciples, Jesus counseled them saying: "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" And they said, 'No, nothing.' And he said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one" (Luke 22:35, 36).  
Later on the same night, Jesus made a second significant statement when Peter struck with a sword the ear of the slave of the high priest: "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scripture be fulfilled that it must happen this way?" (Matt 26:52-54).  
The two statements stand in apparent contradiction. On the one hand Jesus counsels the disciples to equip themselves for the new worldwide ministry with a purse, a bag, and a sword, but on the other hand, shortly afterwards He tells Peter not to use the sword. How can this apparent contradiction be resolved? Simply by looking at the context of each statement. Peter was told not to use the sword, because Jesus had warned the disciples that He would be arrested and suffer death. He wanted Scripture to be fulfilled. Preventing His death by armed resistance, would have defeated the very purpose for Christ's coming into this world.  
The injunction to put away the sword must be understood in the context of the divine purpose for Christ's arrest and death, and not as a general admonition against using weapons for self-defence. Peter was acting impulsively, without understanding the purpose of Jesus' arrest and death. Jesus intimated that those who like Peter act violently, controlled by unbridled passions, will die a similar violent death.  
Yet, Peter and the other disciples were instructed to take up a sword, an outer garment, and money pouches for their new worldwide itinerant ministry. The reason for the inclusion of a sword in their travelling outfit, is most likely because of the need to protect themselves from robbers, who posed a constant danger to travelers. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example. To be safe, people traveled in groups and with a sword. By recognizing the need to carry a sword for self-defense, Jesus hardly advocated passive pacifism.  
Pacifists reject this interpretation by appealing to Matthew 5:39 where Christ appears to contradict his counsel about carrying a sword for self-defense, when He said: "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt 5:39). Pacifists interpret this statement as an unconditional injunction to be willing to suffer unjustly, rather than acting in self-defense. Such an interpretation ignores that statement is part of a larger sermon of Jesus, where He makes several radical statements about suffering loss rather than taking legal action, going the second mile, and giving money without questioning to those who want to burrow (Matt 5:40-41).  
To interpret these radical statements of Jesus as unconditional commands, it is a serious mistake for two reasons. First, a literal interpretation ignore that Jesus often used hyperboles to capture the attention of the people. How else can we understand Christ's saying that "If any . . . hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). Did Christ really mean that we must hate everybody, including ourselves, in order to follow Him? Why then, did He teach to love our enemies when we are supposed to hate everybody? It is evident, that Jesus used hyperboles to make a point. In the case of non resisting an evil person, presumably the point is that for a Christian it is better not to be contentious with evil people. Rather than arguing and fighting troublemakers, it is wiser for Christians to ignore them.  
A second reason why Christ's radical injunctions cannot be interpreted as absolute for all situations, is because they are contradicted by the rest of the New Testament. For example, if Christ's injunctions about not resisting evil doers, turning the other check, and giving in to those what want to sue, are to be taken as normative for all situations, then Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, failed miserably. Why? Because he resisted his accusers by going out of his way to defend himself before the Jewish and Roman authorities.  
He appealed to his Roman citizenship to protest his beating and imprisonment (Acts 16:37-38). During his legal process, Paul accepted the help of Roman military escorts in order to protect his life (Acts 23:12-33; 28:16). He went as far as appealing to Caesar, which was the Supreme Court of the time (Acts 25:11). Paul's defense strategy hardly suggests that he understood Christ's injunction not to resist evil persons as passive pacifism.  
Jesus accepted the notion of obedience to civil government when He said: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" (Matt 22:21; Mark 12:17). Like today, part of the taxes were used to support the Roman army. Had Jesus rejected any form of Christian support and participation in the military service, most likely He would have qualified how Christians were to pay their taxes.  
Jesus predicted that His followers will suffer persecution for their faith. Suffering injustice for the faith would prove to be a witness unto others and would be rewarded by God. A distinction must be made between spiritual and secular warfare, that is, between suffering for refusing to compromise with evil, and resisting the aggression of evildoers interested in our goods, not in our faith.  
Christ calls Christians to be peace-loving, not desiring conflict. Yet there are situation when resisting evildoers becomes a moral necessity, or Christ would not have counseled to buy a sword, or God would not have commanded the Israelites to war against certain wicked nations, or Michael and His angels would not have fought in heaven against the devil and his angels (Rev 12:7).  
In the cleansing of the Temple, Christ Himself made a display of force by chasing cattle merchants and money changers out of the Temple: "And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15; NIV).  
Christ could have used diplomacy and gentle persuasions, by telling the merchants: "Would you guys, please, conduct your business outside the sacred precincts of the Temple? You know very well that this is not the place to sell cattle and change money! Please respect the sacredness of the Temple." Apparently Christ understood that gentle persuasions would have been fruitless. So He decided to display some force by cracking the whip and overturning tables and letting the coins run all over. This episode hardly projects the image of Christ acting as a passive pacifist.  
To interpret Christ's willingness to suffer the cruel scourging and crucifixion without complaint, as meaning that Christians must be willing to suffer at the hands of evildoers without opposing resistance, means to fail to recognize the atoning function of His suffering and death. He suffered and died to pay the penalty of our sins (Rom 5:6-9). We are not called to suffer and die to expiate our sins, or the sins of others. The persecution we may face for following Jesus is part of the spiritual warfare to be discussed later. But there is a difference between the spiritual and the secular warfare, that is, suffering for our faith, and supporting a divinely established governing power committed to guarantee order by fighting against evildoers and armed aggression. This distinction is clarified by Paul in Romans 13.  

Paul and the Christian Responsibility

In Romans 13:1-7, Paul provides the clearest instructions found in the NT regarding the Christian responsibility toward civil authorities. To appreciate Paul's instructions, it is important to remember that the apostle respected the Roman government, which guaranteed law, order, and peace in the Mediterranean world. On numerous occasions Roman soldiers rescued Paul from popular lynching and protected him on his long journey to Rome to appeal his case before the Emperor himself.  
In the light of his positive experience with Roman authorities, Paul urges submission to authorities, saying: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. . . . For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to authorities, not only because of possible punishment, but also because of conscience" (Rom 13:1, 4-5; NIV).  
Two points should be noted in this admonition. First, Paul views governing authorities as divine established. He goes as far as describing the ruler as "God's servant." Such a high esteem of governing rulers is surprising, since in most cases they obtained their position, not through democratic elections, but through intrigues and political plotting. In spite of the questionable ways in which governing authorities achieved their position, Paul still regards them as God's servants called to provide law and order in an hostile world.  
Second, Paul acknowledges the right of rulers to use the sword to punish evildoers. It is evident that the apostle was not a pacifist, because he approves the use of weapons to punish evildoers. It is reasonable to assume that if governing authorities can use weapons to punish evildoers within a nation, they can also legitimately use armed intervention to protect a country from hostile foreign aggression. It other words, Paul's statement suggests that there is a legitimate use of arms to maintain law and order within a nation and presumably to protect a nation from hostile foreign aggression.  
The state, the church, and the family have all different spheres of responsibility. Each functions in its own divinely appointed role. The Christian is to obey the present civil authorities (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-15) to the extent that they do not violate God's moral law. When that happens, Christians are called to obey the divine law, rather than the human law (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29). As Christians we are to support civil authorities, even though they make mistakes. We must choose the lesser of two evils, in order for us to carry on our lives (Rom 13:4).  

Military Heroes Praised in the New Testament

An indirect, but telling indication of the New Testament recognition of the legitimacy of warfare in certain situation, is found in Hebrews 11:32-34. The author praises OT warriors such as Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, as examples of great men of faith who risked their lives in armed conflict. "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight" (Heb 11:32-34).  
The fact that these OT worthies are mentioned as great examples of faith "who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, . . . became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight," suggests that their military exploits are viewed in the NT as worthy of commendation. If participation in any form of warfare was regarded in the NT as intrinsically evil, it would have been most inappropriate to praise OT warriors as example of outstanding faith. What makes these warriors great men of faith, is the fact that they risked their lives in armed conflicts to defeat evil powers and advance the cause of justice. The implication is that faith is manifested not only in passive resistance, but also in active armed intervention against evil.  

Peace is not Always Possible

Christians are called to be peacemakers, but peace is not always possible in this sinful world. In admonishing believers not to pay back evil for evil or to take vengeance, Paul says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18; NIV). We must do whatever we can do promote peace by avoiding conflicts and violence. But the phrase "if possible," suggests that sometimes peace is not possible. There are situations when peace can only be maintained through armed conflicts designed to ward off aggressors. If we are aware of evil intentions by an individual or a nation to harm others, we would hardly keep the "peace" by giving in to their demands. It would be morally irresponsible to turn over ones' wife to a rapist just to "keep peace."  
When totalitarian regimes threaten to take over countries and to destroy the lives of millions, Christians cannot for the sake of "peace" allow the aggressors to have their own ways. There are situation where maintaining the peace is impractical and even impossible, even if we are not motivated by revenge.  
Christians cannot ignore the evil intent of others just for the sake of maintaining the "peace." Apparently for the sake of keeping peace the Corinthians had refused to disfellowship a couple engaged in a incestual relationship. Paul strongly condemned such a tolerant attitude as "arrogance" (1 Cor 5:2) and instructed the church to act forcefully, saying: "Drive out the wicked person from among you" (1 Cor 5:13).  
To tolerate evil means to condone it. Christians cannot afford to do that. For example, if a church members refuses to work, preferring instead to live on the assistance of the church and/or government, we may be tempted to tolerate that situation for the sake of peace. But the Scripture admonishes otherwise. Paul says: "For even when we were with you we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat" (2 Thess 3:10). For the sake of peace the church may be inclined to feed a lazy person, but there comes a point when the best way to help that person is to deny him food.  
In summary, peace is not always possible for Christians. Keeping peace by tolerating evil at the personal or international levels, can result in greater evils. Refusing to defend our family or our country from evil aggressors, ultimately can result in the loss of innocent lives and liberty. Peace cannot always maintained by giving in to deliberate evil. To do so peace becomes appeasement.  

Difficult Decisions in Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

The issue of self-defense and armed intervention is rarely a clear moral choice. Often it is a matter of deciding which principles to follow in a given situation: suffering unjustly for one's faith, defending the rights of oppressed, punishing evildoers for their crime. Once we accept the justice of killing a murderer for his crime, then in principle we must also accept the justice of eliminating a ruthless dictator who murders his own people and threatens the peace of other countries.  
Gleason Archer perceptively asks: "Is it really a manifestation of goodness to furnish no opposition to evil? Can we say that a truly good surgeon should do nothing to cut away cancerous tissue from his patient and simply allow him to go on suffering until finally he dies? Can we praise a police force that stands idly by and offers no slightest resistance to the armed robber, the rapist, the arsonist, or any other criminal who preys on society? How could God be called 'good' if He forbade His people to protect their wives from ravishment and strangulation by drunken marauders, or to resist invaders who have come to pick up their children and dash out their brains against the wall?  
". . . No nation could retain its liberty or preserve the lives of its citizens if it were prevented from maintaining any sort of army for its defense. It is therefore incumbent on a 'good God' to include the right of self-defense as the prerogative of His people. He would not be good at all if He were to turn the world over to the horrors of unbridled cruelty perpetrated by violent and bloody criminals or unchecked aggression of invading armies."10  
We need to remember that armed intervention against wicked evildoers who threaten our neighbor or our country, is not just a matter of justice, but also of charity. As evangelical scholar Darrell Cole writes, "The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war . . . fail to show love towards their neighbor as well as towards God."11  
As Christians we must realize that no permanent victory against evildoers is possible in this present world. The victory of the coalition forces against Iraq is of temporary nature. Other forms of oppressive government could easily emerge in Iraq. The removal of the Shah Reza Khan Pahlavi in Iran has given rise to an oppressive government controlled by Moslem fundamentalists, who deny to the Iranian their fundamental rights. All the major empires have eventually fallen and have been replaced by others. This will continue until the establishment of God's Eternal Kingdom at Christ's Coming.  

The Early Christians' View of War

Pacifist often argue that until the time of Constantine in the fourth century, Christians did not enroll in the military service. When they joined the military in order to support the first Christian emperor, they departed from the faith and from the pacifist position of the early church. This argument ignores some of the obvious reasons why Christians refrained from military service.  
Several Roman Emperors openly persecuted Christians and tried to suppress the Christian religion. The anti-Christian repressive measure of the Romans, would hardly encourage Christians to join the army. Moreover, the Roman government was corrupt and strongly promoted the Emperor Cult. John the Revelator was exiled to Patmos because he refused to worship Emperor Domitian as "Dominus et Deus - Lord and God." Soldiers were expected to take an oath of allegiance to the emperor and worship him as god. Under these circumstances Christians would hardly rush to become volunteer soldiers!  
The situation changed dramatically at the time of Constantine. The Edict of Milan issued in 313 by Constantine and Licinius granted legal recognition and protection to Christianity. Christians no longer had to worship the emperor. Instead, the new "Christian" emperor tried to unite the empire under Christian moral principles. Many Christians joined the army, because serving in the military was no longer an issue of idolatry. They sensed the desire to support the empire which had largely embraced Christian ideals and values.  
The witness of the early church can hardly be taken as "proof" that Christians were pacifists. The fact is that there is no record that soldiers like Cornelius who became Christians ever left their post. Soldiers who were converted to Christianity continued to serve in the army and brought the knowledge of the Christian faith to such foreign countries like Britain. Clement of Alexandria (about 155-220) wrote: "Has saving knowledge taken hold of you while engage in military service? Listen to the commander who orders what is right."12 To the extent that Christian soldiers could follow the dictates of their conscience, they continue to serve in the army.  

Just War Theory

When Christianity became the dominant religion of the western nations that emerged from the breaking up of the Roman Empire, the just war theory gradually developed over the centuries to provide criteria for judging the appropriateness of going to war and for governing the conduct of military forces during the war. Augustine (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) were primarily responsible for formulating the just war theory which has guided the Christian approach to war to our day.  
The theory consists of seven points which provides the framework for evaluating military action. A just war is supposed to include the following conditions: just cause, just intention, last resort, formal declaration, limited objectives, proportionate means, and noncombatant immunity. The first five principles are suppose to guide a nation planning to go to war, while the last two apply to the army in the midst of war. Briefly, here are the seven principles:  
  1. Just cause - Participation in a war must be prompted by a just cause or a defensive cause. No war of unprovoked aggression can ever be justified.
  2. Just intention - The intent of the war must be just, that is, its intent must be to secure a just peace for all parties involved. Therefore, revenge, conquest, or economic gain are not legitimate motives for going to war.
  3. Last resort - War must be engaged only as a last resort only after diplomacy and economic pressure have been exhausted.
  4. Formal declaration - War must be initiated with a formal declaration by properly constituted authorities. Only governments can declare war, not individuals or terroristic organizations.
  5. Limited objectives - War must be characterized by limited objectives such a peace. Complete destruction of a nation's political or economic institutions is an improper objective. Once peace is attained hostilities are to cease.
  6. Proportionate means - Combatants may not be subjected to greater harm than is necessary to secure victory. The types of weapons and amount of force used should be limited to what is needed to repel aggression and secure a just peace.
  7. Noncombatant immunity - Military forces must respect individuals and groups not willing to participate in the conflict. Only governmental forces or agents are legitimate targets.
The interpretation and application of these seven principles is difficult in modern warfare. Their goal is to contain war, not to promulgate it. These moral guidelines are designed to minimized the death and devastation that accompanies war.  

Spiritual Warfare

The Kingdom that Christ came to establish is a spiritual realm, not a political empire. Such a Kingdom is established not by military might (Acts 1:6), but through the willing acceptance of God's sovereign rule on the human heart. Jesus redirected the nature of warfare for the believer from the political to the spiritual realm.  
For the Christian what is most important is to fight and win the spiritual warfare going on in the human heart. The aim is to recognize evil and to use the appropriate weapons to overcome it. The apostle Paul offers a stirring description of the armor that Christians are to put on to war against evil: "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  
"Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph 6:10-17).  
Winning the spiritual battles over every besetting sin should be the ultimate goal of every Christian. Meeting our obligations toward "Caesar" may sometimes obscure the goals of our spiritual warfare. But we should never allow political activism to become a substitute for aggressive spiritual growth and victory.  


In this investigation we have tried to survey the biblical view of warfare. We have seen that wars stems from selfishness and pride. They reflect our fallen, rebellious human nature, which affects international as well as interpersonal relationships. War began in heaven when God Himself found it necessary to expel Lucifer to terminate his rebellion.  
War is seen in the Bible as an unavoidable evil, reflective of the conflict between good and evil. When the wickedness of a nation or an empire reaches the limits of God's mercy (Gen 15:16), an armed intervention by another nation becomes necessary to bring such evil regime to an end. In the Bible the rise and fall of nations is the outcome , not of natural causes, but of God's intervention to bring to an end wicked and ruthless governments (Ps 75:6-7; Gen 15:16; Acts 17:26-27; Prov 14:34).  
The Old Testament speaks of war in a realistic way, as a necessary evil to stop human rebellion and wickedness and restore a degree of peace and justice. The Israelites were instructed, not to be pacifist, but to wage a war in a responsible way, when necessity called for it. As expressed in Ecclesiastes "There is a time for everything . . . a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecc 3:1, 8).  
In the NT Christ calls Christians to be peace-loving, not desiring conflict. Yet there are situation when resisting evildoers becomes a moral necessity, or Christ would not have counseled His disciples to buy a sword to defend themselves (Luke 22:35, 36) nor would He have fought with His angels in heaven against the devil and his angels (Rev 12:7).  
We found that in Romans 13 Paul suggests that governing authorities have a legitimate right to use arms to maintain law and order within a nation and presumably to protect a nation from hostile foreign aggression.  
Hebrews 11 praises the great warriors of the OT as great men of faith because they risked their lives in armed conflicts to defeat evil powers and advance the cause of justice. The implication is that faith is manifested, not only in passive resistance, but also in active armed intervention against evil.  
Christians are called to be peacemakers, but peace is not always possible in this sinful world. Peace at any price is not peace, but appeasement. Our God is not only a God of peace; He is also a God of justice. Proverbs 21:15 says: "When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." Christians should be interested not only in peace, but also in justice. There are situations when justice can only be done through armed conflicts designed to ward off aggressors.  
The Christian conscience has struggled through the centuries with the harsh realities of destructive wars which frustrate God's loving purpose for mankind. Most Christians accept the fact that when all peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms is preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny, and genocide. However, there are Christian pacifists who conscientiously oppose all wars and therefore refuse to serve in any capacity in the armed forces. We must honor and respect the witness of pacifists. Personally I find more acceptable the Seventh-day Adventist position of serving in the armed forces as a noncombatant. The reason is that as Christians we must be prepared to alleviate human sufferings everywhere, whether they be in the battlefield or in a ghetto.  
We yearn for the day when the endless cycle of war and bloodshed will be broken, the day when the Lord "will judge the nations and will settle disputes for many nations. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Is 2:3-4; NIV).  


  1. Arthur F. Holmes, "The Just War," in War: Four Christian Views, Robert G. Clouse, ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois 1991), p. 117.
  2. Michael Novak, "The Winning of a Just War," National ReviewOnline,April 9, 2003.
  3. Dennis Prager, "When have millions of Europeans ever been wrong?" http://www.townhall.com, February 18, 2003.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Emphasis supplied.
  6. President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases /2003/01/20030128-19.html.
  7. Ibid.
  8. 5 Testimonies, p. 451.
  9. See K. Lawson Younger, Jr., Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (JSOT Supplement 98. Sheffield Academic Press.
  10. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 219, 220.
  11. Cited by Charles Colson, "Just War in Iraq," Christianity Today, December 9, 2002, p. 72.
  12. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 2, p. 200.

Contact Information

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.
Retired Professor of Theology and Church History
Andrews University
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E-mail: sbacchiocchi@biblicalperspectives.com
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