Tag Archives: ethics

War

The second in a series of short essays for a course in Ethics. 

How is a Christian to relate to the reality of war?

“…for his own glory and the public good… [God] has armed [civil magistrates] with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”[1]

“It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto… they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.”[2]

The reality of war is rooted in the nature of government as ordained by God and armed by Him with the power of the sword.  That God has done this is established in Romans 13:1-4.  While the Confession is perhaps referring to the exercise of capital punishment in both defensive situations (i.e. “for the defence of them that do good”) and offensive (i.e. “for the punishment of evil doers”), there is no reason to limit the exercise of the sword to the sphere of domestic relations.  Rather, “…this responsibility from God also provides justification for nations to engage in armed conflict (“to bear the sword”) in order to protect their citizens from evildoers who would attack them from outside the nation, including a defence against armies sent by other nations when those armies are “those who do evil (1 Pet 2:14) in the pursuit of such a war.”[3] The second paragraph of the same chapter of the Confession asserts that not only may Christians be involved in the exercise of the sword in domestic affairs, but may also “lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.”

While there is divergence with regard to a Christian view of war, it would appear that the Confession would support the Just War Theory. The concept of Just War is built on several presuppositions, namely[4]:

  • some evil cannot be avoided;
  • the just war position is normative for all, Christian and non-Christian alike;
  • this theory does not try to justify war, rather it attempts to bring war within the limits of justice so that if everyone were guided by these principles, many wars would be eliminated;
  • the theory assumes that private citizens have no right to use force.

This theory, from the outset, “sees war as evil” (Feinberg, 652) and must met several criteria in order to qualify as an ethically permissible “just war”.  Criteria has typically been considered under the categories of jus ad bellum (i.e conditions that must be met before war can be deemed just) and jus in bello (i.e. the conduct and aims of the war). 

Conditions that must be met before war can be deemed just include the following[5]:

  • There must be a proper or legitimate authority who has responsibility for judging whether the other criteria are met.
  • War must be the last resort.
  • Insofar as possible, a formal declaration of war is required.
  • There must be reasonable hope of success.
  • There must be some proportionality between the good objective hoped for and the destruction involved in achieving it.
  • There must be a just cause.
  • The war must be fought with the right intention.

Criteria for the right conduct of war are as follows[6]:

  • There must be a limited objective in waging the war, namely, the restoration of peace.
  • The immediate object is not to kill or even injure people, but to incapacitate or restrain them.
  • Direct attack on non-combatants is illegitimate.
  • One is obligated not to inflict unnecessary suffering.
  • Indirect effects upon civilians must be justified by the principle of proportionality, i.e., the evil averted or the good attained justifies the action.

With regard to those persons featured in the New Testament who were militant by profession, they are never told to resign from their positions, but are rather exhorted to abound in compassion (Luke 3:14).  Additionally, “The NT church included many soldiers on active duty and saw nothing morally inconsistent with Christians serving as military professionals.”[7] 

In sum, how ought the Christian relate to the reality of war?  For one, war is a last resort and as such, the church must insist that all other diplomatic means are employed.  Secondly, there is scope for members of the church to be involved in the military. Third, Christians may serve in active duty in combatant roles given the above criteria of a Just War (with both categories of criteria being substantially satisfied) though they would be compelled to advocate the extending of mercy and sparing of “innocents” such as those serving in non-combatant roles and civilians.

[1] LBC 24:1

[2] LBC 24:2

[3] ESV Study Bible, 2554

[4] Feinberg, 653

[5] Feinberg, 654-655

[6] Feinberg, 655

[7] ESV Study Bible, 2554

Gender

The first in a series of short essays for a course on Ethics.

Explain and demonstrate from Scripture a Christian understanding of gender (sex – male/female) and discuss the implications of this on our culture’s current “gender debate”.

Gender is established in God’s sovereign act of creating man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 21-23).  In this a male/female distinction is established.  Genesis 1:27 is a fundamental text because of the closeness of association between God creating man in his own image, and His creating them male and female.  The creating of man at the start of the verse need not be understood as being synonymous with male (i.e. it would not be right to translate it as “God created males in his own image”).  Rather, it is the collective humanity that God creates in His own image.  This collective humanity is created male and female.  The use of the word translated “them” means that man is neither androgynous nor hermaphrodite.  Rather, it is right to think that God creates human beings and that whether male or female, they bear His image.  There is no scope within the creation account to suggest non-binary gender distinctions.  As Kevin de Young has written “The Bible knows no other gender categories besides male and female. While men and women in Scripture may express their masculinity and femininity in a wonderful diversity of ways, Scripture still operates with the binary categories of men and women. You are one or the other.[1]” Jesus Himself affirms the origin of maleness and femaleness in God’s creative design (Matthew 19:4).

The fall of man into sin has obviously had a significant impact on creation in that through it, it is subject to futility (Romans 8:20).  Again, Kevin de Young asserts “The anomaly of intersex individuals does not undermine the creational design, but rather gives another example of creational “groaning” and the “not the way they are supposed to be” realities of a fallen world.” Though this is the case, and it must be taken into account, there is nothing in the biblical record that supports gender fluidity or non-binary gender distinctions. Granted, although Paul distinguishes a naturalness from an unnaturalness when it comes to the use of one’s body and human sexuality, there is nothing to suggest that naturalness/unnaturalness gives rise to a substantial change in the biological realities of binary gender.  

de Young is not so naïve as to suggest that there are not individuals who struggle at a profound level with the issues of whether what they think and feel accords with the biological gender assigned to them at birth.  Rather, he asserts “The question is whether the is of our emotional or mental state equals the ought of God’s design”.  In other words, he does not allow the existential or situational perspective to confuse the normative perspective on issues of gender. 

de Young concludes his article by saying “I have not begun to answer all the important questions about pastoral care, counsel, and compassion for the hurting and confused.”  In this, he acknowledges that though we stand on a solid foundation of God’s truth concerning gender, we have obligation to approach the issues is raises with Christ-like compassion, especially when acknowledging the hurt and confusion from which gender confusion can arise as well as result in.

[1] https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2016/09/08/what-does-the-bible-say-about-transgenderism/ retrieved 18-10-2017