Jesus and War

Rand Paul:

Making the case against excessive American engagement overseas, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reminded social conservatives Thursday that Jesus was anti-war.

“I can recall no utterance of Jesus in favor of war or any acts of aggression,” Paul said at a kickoff luncheon for the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. “In fact, his message to his disciples was one of non-resistance.”…

Paul stressed that America needs a strong military but that it should be used sparingly.

“I believe individuals and countries can and should defend themselves, but I simply can’t imagine Jesus at the head of any army of soldiers and I think as Christians we need to be wary of the doctrine of preemptive war,” he said. “We must and should stand with our fellow Christians in the Middle East and around the world, but that does not necessarily mean war and it certainly does not mean arming sides in every conflict.”…

The libertarian also warned that the John McCain-led push to send aid to Syrian rebels is “misguided” and will probably do more harm than good. [He did not mention the Arizona senator by name.]

“Before the Arab Spring, Christianity flourished in small outposts, like the Coptic Christians in Egypt,” he said. “I had hoped that the Arab Spring would bring freedom to long-oppressed people throughout the Middle East, but I fear the Arab Spring is becoming an Arab winter.

The speech is the latest effort by Paul to package his leeriness of U.S. intervention overseas in a way that can appeal to as many conservatives as possible.

Some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he said Egypt should get no money from the United States until the new government recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

“You are being taxed to send money to countries that are not only intolerant of Christians but openly hostile,” he said.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Guest

    Sen. Paul, it’s not “non resistance.” A better reading of the Sermon on the Mount would probably advocate for non-violent resistance. If you are going to co-opt a theological belief for political gain, it’s probably best to get it right.

    Who knows, Sen. Paul may be completely genuine in his belief. But this just sounds wrong.

  • NateW

    Bonhoeffer speaks of two forces that are able to avert the collapse of the world into chaos: the law/state, and grace manifested in the church. Grace alone achieves permanent change, is without sin, and is ultimately victorious, but in the meantime, due to the hardness of human hearts, the coercive power of the state is a necessary evil to restrain the chaos of the “void” and to protect the lives of the innocent.

    If you think about it, it is impossible for a nation to exist as such without the use of violence. Until the day that every nation lays down their guns and all merge into one Kingdom under Christ’s banner of Love, the state must exist as a restraint on evil for the good of all, even though that may well mean bringing judgment upon itself. The tricky part, of course is remaining objective regarding who is innocent and oppressed and who is the oppressor. It seems to me that we must be very careful not to assume that these lines can be drawn neatly along political lines. As Christians our interaction with government must not be firstly about self-preservation (or national preservation) but about care for the “least of these” wherever they live on our planet.

  • KentonS

    I would imagine Sen. Paul would concede the issue as one of semantics.

    But since when has co-opting a theological belief for political gain ever meant getting the belief right? :) :) :)

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Good thoughts and well put, Nate.

    I don’t agree with Senator Paul on much, but his (and generally the libertarian) approach to national defense and international affairs re. use of force seems close to Jesus’ position (as extrapolated as objectively as possible, given the minimal data we have on it). At least closer than the typical position of both major parties and their leaders.

  • Jon Altman

    Jesus WAS anti-war, but Rand Paul’s take on it has NUMEROUS problems.

  • Susan Gerard

    I believe in the just war theory as developed by Augustine/Acquinas/Salamanca:
    1) there must be a just cause (cannot be for recapturing things/punishing people; innocent life must be in imminent danger
    2) comparative justice: the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other
    3) must be initiated by a political authority
    4) probability of success: arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success
    5) last resort: force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives
    have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical.
    6) proportionality: the anticipated benefits must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.

    Obviously we need wisdom to determine when these criteria are met. Some will say that there is no just war, and will point to Jesus’ command to buy swords followed shortly by his reproach that two are enough and of Peter when he used the sword to cut off the soldier’s ear. I do not know the answer. Jesus was speaking of his own sacrifice when he said, Yet there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, but I can understand that in terms of protecting innocents as well.

    Finally as Nate said, “It seems to me that we must be very careful not to assume that these lines can be drawn neatly along political lines.”

  • David Moore

    Scot,

    Curious whether you think the following distinction is valid, but before I mention it let me say that we Americans are involved in far too many wars. You would think we would be a bit more chastened because of the Vietnam debacle, but alas it seems we are slow learners.

    Here goes: The non resistance of Jesus is critical to consider. I don’t see it as merely suggestive or some ill founded idealism. However, would not nations have a more complex set of criteria in determining whether violence is warranted or not?

  • Mike Donahue

    If Jesus is so anti-war what is He doing in Revelation 19:11-16? There it says “He judges and makes war,” A lot of Christians have a hard time with this because they want their own version of Jesus, who is more an ancient version of Gandhi than the Son of God. The Lord Jesus has called the church to pacifism, He calls us to turn the other cheek, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to kill a lot of people when He returns. Just check out all the prophecies about it (e.g. Isaiah 61, 63).

  • KentonS

    Isaiah 61 is a passage that Jesus edits in Luke 4. He redacts the stuff about “the day of vengeance” and those parts about “foreigners shall plow your fields”. That’s why they tried to stone him. The problem they had was precisely that they didn’t want “an ancient version of Gandhi”.

    And Revelation 19? Read that a little closer. Yes, Jesus wields a sword, but it’s not in his hand, it’s in his mouth. His brings justice in speaking words, not in cutting their heads off. (Unless you have a really interesting understanding of waging warfare with mouth swords.)

  • http://LostCodex.com/ DRT

    It makes my skin crawl to see this kind of talk. Paul’s perspective is motivated by disinterest and frugality, not helpfulness. But, does Jesus admonition of the apostles concerning others using Jesus name come into play here?

  • Katie Holmes

    Hi there was no scripture in your post. Not really “credible.”


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