Christians and War

soldierMany Christians have debated whether or not Christians should partake in war for their country. There are many factors to this debate and many parties debating. Some think that Christians (as well as the rest of humanity) should be entirely pacifist and find diplomatic solutions to problems between countries.  Some believe in “just war” or war that is justified based on whatever they are fighting for. For example a just war might be fighting for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in another country. Some believe that it’s up to the individual Christian and God’s calling specific to that person. Others think that because our Government is ordained by God, so also are the wars of the government. The possibilities are endless as to the differing beliefs of Christians on the topic of their participation in wars.

 When I asked a person in my life whose faith I look up to about their opinions on war they referenced David and Gideon and said that War can often be God ordained. I find that many Christians look to the Hebrew Bible when faced with the question. However, when asked about war through a purely new testament perspective, many people are stumped. Although the popular consensus seems to dictate that the “just war” perspective is most popular. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, (http://ethics.sandiego.edu/Books/Texts/Aquinas/JustWar.html) “Wars are lawful and just in so far as they protect the poor and the entire common weal from suffering at the hands of the foe.”

Other opinions range from drastically different to extremely similar. Some people range on the side of pacifism, saying that no matter what the cause or government Christians should not in any way participate in war. They like to state that we are to turn the other cheek. We are to love our enemies. God is the one who should take vengeance, not us. Innocent lives will be taken. There’s no such thing as a just war since each side thinks that it is just.  They have many reasons to promote pacifism. In an ideal world that would work perfectly. Diplomacy would solve all problems and there would be no violence, ever. But the fact of the matter is that this is not an ideal world. It’s full of sin and sinful people and if no Christians rise up and help, minister to the dying and participate in assisting their government (who was ordained by God) then the world will only fall to more violence and the soldiers will have no one to minister to them in the hardest moments of their lives.

Ultimately I think that the just war theory is the most probable. John Piper offers up his opinion saying that I, “know that’s a huge issue, but I think the Just War theory is an appropriate biblical reflection on which wars are warranted and which aren’t. Almost everybody agrees that in World War II it was right for the Allies to engage in violence against the aggressors, Germany and Japan.”(http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/was-dietrich-bonhoeffer-wrong-to-plot-against-hitlers-life )Greg Boyd says, “But suppose, for the sake of argument, we grant that political freedom is a just cause worth killing and dying for. This doesn’t yet settle the matter for a kingdom person contemplating enlisting in war (or not resisting being drafted into war); for one has to further appreciate that there are many other variables alongside the central criterion of justice that affect whether or not a particular war is ‘just.’” (See more at: http://reknew.org/2008/01/does-following-jesus-rule-out-serving-in-the-military-if-a-war-is-just/#sthash.xioywnfq.dpuf)

Just war is much more akin to my personal beliefs. I think that God ordained the government and can exact his vengeance through them. I think that it’s good to follow our government as God ordained (except for specific cases of being extremely ungodly). Also there are cases, such as the aforementioned world war two case, where it does seem just for a Christian to go to war to defend those people that Hitler was unjustly killing.  I think that in the case of defense it’s just for a Christian to participate in a war. So I guess ultimately I’m more for just war, and it seems that many other Christians are as well. When it comes to cases like the war in Iraq where it was a preemptive strike, it’s harder to justify. Some say it was wrong and Christians should not have participated due to the lack of justice, others say it was defense, just going on the offensive before we needed to be defensive. I think that along with just war there are a lot of gray areas.  It would be a lot easier to be pacifist and say no violence ever, but because I believe that it is sometimes necessary, I can’t choose to think that way. I know that sometimes the issue of war can be very gray, so in the end each Christian needs to rely on God to help them make the choice for how much they will participate.

What IS Hell?

What IS Hell? What is its purpose? Who goes there and why? What does the Bible say about it? What does the Hebrew Bible say? Does it say anything? What does Jesus have to say about Hell? Every Christian, despite whether they have been a Christian their whole lives, are new to the faith or are even pastors, speculate over the concept of Hell.

First thing’s first, what is it? What is Hell? Hell is not mentioned in the Bible using just one word. It is written in many different ways, in both the Hebrew language and the Greek. Some of these are Sheol, Hades and Gehenna. (For more in depth information on this see http://urqa.com/page789.html) It isn’t known for certain if Sheol (a term used in the Hebrew Bible) is “Hell” or even if they are remotely related. It is translated as “grave” “hell” and “pit” but many people debate whether or not it ought to be translated as our current Hell, seeing as Christ’s “Gehenna” (also translated as Hell) seems like it could be very different.  According to the site provided above, “As to the rendering ‘hell,’ it does not represent sheol, because both by Dictionary definition and by colloquial usage ‘hell’ means the place of future punishment. Sheol has no such meaning, but denotes the present state of death. ‘The grave’ is, therefore, a far more suitable translation, because it visibly suggests to us what is invisible to the mind, viz., the state of death. It must, necessarily, be misleading to the English reader to see the former put to represent the latter.”

Paul uses Hades, the Romans’ post-mortem destination, as his name for the afterlife aside from Heaven. This may not, indeed, actually be what Hell is, but rather Paul’s attempt to describe the afterlife in a way that would be familiar to the Romans at the time. (For a detailed research paper on Paul’s views of the afterlife go to http://www.nazarene-friends.org/pubs/thedead/009.php)hell

Jesus uses the word Gehenna. Gehenna was a disgusting landfill outside of Jerusalem where all the trash was burnt. This could be considered a metaphor for burning in the lake of fire. http://www.concordant.org/expohtml/DeathAndJudgment/TheGehennaOfFire.html has a detailed look at the translation they have a good description of the parallel. They say, “The Lord explicitly identifies Gehenna with Isaiah 66:23,24 by speaking of it as the place of “unextinguished fire, where their worm is not deceasing[3] and the fire is not going out” (Mark 9:46). All whose bodies are destroyed in Gehenna will be raised to be judged at the great white throne, and go into the lake of fire. Gehenna is the capital punishment of the kingdom, without burial.”

The Hebrew Bible, Paul and Jesus all use different words, but all of them seem to mean similar things. This is why it seems reasonable that each word was translated as Hell. Based on these different translations it can be concluded first and foremost that “Hell” is an afterlife. It is also very separate from Heaven. This could be debated because according to Greek mythology Hades has many levels, reaching from burning torment all the way up to paradise. So ultimately exactly what Hell is, is unknown. Whether it is a lake of fire, unconscious torment or simply the grave, we don’t know for certain.

When I was younger I imagined Hell as the other end of the tunnel, the end without the light. I imagined a lake, with the souls of the Godless being shoved in by demons, their necks laden with millstones. I thought that those in heaven could see to the lake, could see the brimstone and ash raining down on those who managed to claw their way to the surface. I imagined that the demons ruled this hell lake and mercilessly beat and bruised those souls who were already anguishing in the lake. It was as horrific an image as my childish imagination was capable of producing. But now, now I no longer have that clear of an image in my head. After looking at translations and researching I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know exactly what hell is, except a Godless land. I have a hazy picture in my mind the only thing I know for certain is that Hell is not somewhere I want to be.