Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
36a. Does the Bible justify war between the USA (a Christian nation) and another nation? If September 11 was judgment from God then should we fight back?
First, I would direct the questioner to question #36 in the "Ask Mike" section of this web site. Suffice it to say that the God-given role of government is to see that God's justice is exacted and to protect its citizenry from criminal actions. The Bible says, "...for he [the governing authority] does not bear the sword for nothing." (from Romans 13:4 NIV). God delegated to governing authorities (the state) the task of executing his justice.
According to Romans 13, the state is to protect the good and punish the evildoer. It is the state's role to see that justice is done. Two observations must be made here. (1) That means that in punishing criminal behavior inside its borders, its role is to punish the criminal not rehabilitate the criminal. The state fulfills its role through law and, when necessary, through force. It is the church's role to extend grace and forgiveness. Individuals, whether Christian or not, should never exact personal revenge but to leave that to the state: "He [the state] is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:4b NIV). (2) In punishing criminal behavior of those outside the borders (non-citizens), it is the role of government to punish the criminal nation and see that its criminal behavior is stopped. This could biblically legitimize pre-emptive action against a rogue criminal state such as Iraq.
To accomplish that purpose, the nation uses diplomacy when possible and military force when necessary. The principles of the Just War Theory (see question #36) are applied. Our military leaders and planners are students of the Just War Theory and apply its principles in the nation's conflicts. Our military academies teach entire courses on the Just War Theory and the ethics of warfare.
Second, it is questionable whether or not the attacks of 9/11/01 were God's judgment on the nation. All too many preachers are quick to make such statements when disaster or attack occurs. The fact is, it may be God's judgment or it may not be God's judgment. Whether or not it is or isn't is irrelevant! The role of the state is to protect and defend its citizens. The terrorists who attacked the United States did so because they worship a false god, possess a false worldview, and made a choice to take the lives of more than 3,000 non-military persons. Their purpose was to spread terror, attack freedom, destroy the nation's economic system, and contribute to the nation's demise. God may use the free sinful choices of the terrorists to call us back to greater dependence on him, but I would be hard pressed to so blatantly state it was God's judgment. Such statements usually erupt out of emotion and hidden agendas than objective truth. Besides, was the attack of 9/11/02 any more the judgment of God than the attack on Pearl Harbor on 12/7/42?
Third, should our nation and government fight back? Of course! Even when God used heathen nations to exact God's judgment on his people, God gave them victory on the battlefield when they repented. A quick reading of the Old Testament book of Judges clearly demonstrates this. Our government would be derelict in its duty before God not to act in such a way as to protect its citizenry.
Let me close this response with this observation. I am writing this on 9/12/02 after the nation spent a full day commemorating the heroic actions and deaths of more than 3,000 people. Last night on the O'Reilly Factor, the host asked a Washington clergyman a question that grew out of the Pope's message of comfort for the victims and forgiveness for the perpetrators. O'Reilly said, "If I were to face Usama Bin Laden, I would not forgive him, I would shoot him right between the eyes." Then he asked the clergyman, "If I did that, would it be a sin?" The clergyman hedged and would not answer.
Like most clergymen, he does not understand the roles of the church (Christians) and the nation. I emailed O'Reilly with an answer. Of course it would be a sin for O'Reilly to shoot Bin Laden unless he were acting as an agent of the state or reacting to a situation of immediate self-defense. If he were a soldier under just orders acting by stipulated rules of engagement or a policeman, and Bin Laden resisted apprehension and responded to the efforts with violence, he would then have the right to kill that international criminal. If Bin Laden surrendered, the state would have every right to try him, judge him, and execute him. In fact, while I can pray for the Islamic terrorists who hate and attack our country, I can also rejoice when justice carries the day and the state restores peace if it means the death of the criminals or the dismantling of a criminal state.
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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.