I've decided to do a little series on issues related to war and peace, and put them in the style of Thomas Aquinas. He was a 13th century theologian whose Summa Theologicae is set up in a very distinct style. He asks a question, gives 3-4 reasons some people believe one direction (but this is actually the opposite of his opinion), then he gives a contrary argument from the Bible or another authority. Then he says, "I reply..." and gives his opinion, and he concludes with stating his replies to the objections in each of the first 3-4 points. It's a good way of laying out an argument briefly and concisely, giving voice to the other side but still stating your own view clearly. So here goes.
Whether a Christian can follow the Bible and be a just war proponent:
Objection 1. Many Christians say yes, we can and should be just war proponents because God desires justice, and as Christians we should always aid in bringing justice to the world.
Objection 2. There is the case of ancient Israel, where God commanded the Israelites to go to war, and they were God's chosen people. Now that Christians are God's chosen people we should fight the wars God asks us to, namely, those that bring about God's desire for justice in the world.
Objection 3. In Roman 13 Paul says Christians should follow our government, and sometimes our government demands us to go to war.
Objection 4. There will always be “wars & rumors of wars,” so we must have a way of choosing which wars to be involved in.
On the contrary, John Howard Yoder (pacifist) & Reinhold Niebuhr (Christian realist) say the Christian Scriptures clearly state that Jesus wants us to always be nonresistant toward evil people. Yoder says we should never be involved in war or the use of violent force, while R. Niebuhr says the Bible is not meant to be taken literally on these matters, because Jesus lived in a different time and place than we do, and so sometimes we will be called to war as the most realistic solution, whether it follows "just war" theory or not.
I reply that it is not possible to follow the Bible and be a just war proponent. The just war theory is not in the Bible and is not based on the Bible--Jesus didn't say, "Turn the other cheek, unless you're being treated unjustly, in which case you can hit back, but only with the amount of force you were hit with..." Pacifism is based on the Christian Scriptures, and if we believe God asks us to follow the Christian Scriptures we should be pacifists.
Reply 1. God desires for justice to happen, but not through our violent actions. We are asked to bring about justice through bringing good news, sight to the blind, visiting people when sick and in prison, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19). Romans 12:17-21 says vengeance belongs to God alone, and to combat evil by staying firmly in the good.
Reply 2. Ancient Israel (whether taken at face value as historically accurate, or taken as a semi-myth meant to teach various truths) was a theocracy, ordered by God. The Israelites were a people chosen by God to enact God's justice in the world. No nation has been given that right today, except perhaps the nation of Israel if it was attempting to live as a theocracy, which it is not. Christians are God's chosen people, but Christ said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I say to you, 'Do not resist an evildoer.'" He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5). This cannot happen by going to war.
Reply 3. Paul, who wrote Romans 13, is known to have disobeyed his government when it went against his understanding of what God was asking him to do. He was thrown in prison several times for preaching the good news. He submitted to the civil magistrate in that he went to prison without using violence to escape, but he did not follow the magistrate in doing things against God's command. Civil disobedience is, therefore, an important part of being a Christian, and this undoubtedly reaches to the problem of war. The first 300 years of Christians understood Jesus & Paul this way and lived as pacifists.
Reply 4. There will always be “wars & rumors of wars,” but this does not mean Christians must be involved in fighting them. This is like saying, “There will always be people who cheat on the spouses, so I have to decide what is the most justifiable way to cheat on my spouse.” We are instructed to overcome evil by staying firmly grounded in the good (Romans 12:21). If we become evil ourselves, we have been defeated as Christians.