Is War Justified?
For 12 years, Saddam Hussein has
mocked the United Nations and the world. Believing he is stockpiling weapons of
mass destruction and acting in concert with terrorists, U.S. and U.K. forces are
massing on the borders of Iraq.
As a consequence the morality of a pre-emptive strike has been in hot
debate. U.S. Catholic bishops
oppose an attack unless Iraq can be linked to the September 11 terror strikes.
One hundred Christian ethicists announced opposition; so did the general
secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches. The new Archbishop of
Canterbury and Pope John Paul II both expressed reservations.
This issue is of particular concern to Christians. Historically, “a
just war” has been defined as
responding to an attack. Let us be
clear God is not a pacifist. He battles with those who fight against Him and His
followers. So, even though He hates war, God is not against it. Throughout the
Old Testament, there are examples of God using warfare to carry out His plans,
to punish the wicked and preserve His people
(Deut. 9:4-6; Deut. 20; Jer. 5; Numbers 33:55-56).
Again he slew every Egyptian first-born on
the night of the Passover (Exodus 12:12;29).
He destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus
14:13-31; 15:1-18). He caused the earth to open
up and swallow the Jews who rebelled against Moses (Numbers
16:20,21;23-35). Again he killed 185,000
Assyrian soldiers who were attacking Jerusalem (2
In Romans 13
we find that government is ordained
by God with the responsibility to promote good and restrain evil. This includes
wickedness that exists within the nation, as well as any wicked persons or
countries that threaten it. Obviously, there are times when a country should not
go to war; but there are also times when, if a nation does not do so, they
suffer the consequences. Therefore, a government has biblical grounds to go to
war in the nation’s defence or to liberate others in the world who are
enslaved. The Westminster Confession of Faith states concerning the civil
magistrate in Chapter 23, section 1 “they may
lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary
In the run up to World War II, many argued that Hitler should be
appeased. European leaders engaged in extraordinary diplomatic efforts to avoid
war. Had the allies had the weapons, would a pre-emptive strike against the
Nazis have been justified before they overran Poland? In hindsight the answer is
clear. Many lives would have been saved.
If Saddam Hussein were to prepare a missile for launch, the U.S. and U.K.
would certainly be warranted in firing in self-defence. Giving a terrorist a
dirty bomb to be delivered in a suitcase is no different, except for delivery
time. The Lord asks in
Psalm 94:16 “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand
up for me against the workers of iniquity?”.
If Saddam Hussein is massing weapons of mass destruction and arming terrorists
then the governments of the world have a responsibility to protect the innocent
and defend the defenceless. To continue to play Saddam’s games is exceedingly