The Evangelical Case Against War and For Gospel Peace
How should Christians respond to war? Peacefully and in creative ways, is the argument in my new book.
Older pagan theories of ‘just war’ and newer liberal ideas of ‘pacifism’ alike fail to help us chart an authentically Biblical and politically savvy way of responding to violence in the world today. Instead, I advocate what I call ‘Gospel Peace,’ namely that the church’s response to war is not to encourage its members to fight in ‘just wars’, but rather to preach the gospel, be the church, and make peace in the love and power of God. War is a manifestation and a consequence of sin, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it: so the church is anti-war, as much as it is anti any other sin.
I started writing the book in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous 2003 UK-US invasion of Iraq, an invasion that led to civil war, and ultimately to the establishment of the tyrannical Islamic State’s caliphate and their export of terrorism around the world. To the church’s shame, this war was supported by many Christians at the time. As someone involved in the anti-war movement that tried to prevent this disaster, the book considers all the debates and discussions I had at the time and since with Christians who found ways to justify the Biblically unjustifiable and politically insane. So the book considers all those old ‘what about’ questions – War in the Old Testament, military metaphors in the New, church history, and the question of how to respond to tyrants like Hitler.
Ultimately the question comes down to this: do we follow Biblical teaching on being peacemakers, or the tortured reasoning of politically-motivated churchmen wanting to support their host-states’ wars so they can be ‘relevant’? Or to think about it another way: Christian reasoning on war in the US and UK often returns at base not to the Bible, but to cinematic portrayals of World War 2 as a noble and just cause, rather than being the culmination of the decades-long squalid clash of imperial rivalries and racist ideologies that it was. So the question can also be put like this: is our ultimate authority Holy Scripture, or Hollywood?
The argument is supported by a host of inspiring examples of men and women of faith from around the world and from different Christian traditions: some based on my original research over three continents, and many from church history.
An unusual feature of the book is that it is written from a clear evangelical perspective, emphasising the integrity and supreme authority of scripture, the imperatives of evangelism and personal holiness, and the atonement of Christ as central to Christian faith. Evangelicals have, sadly, acted as cheerleaders for some of the USA’s most disastrous wars in modern history: to be true to their principles, they should be solidly and resolutely anti-war. So the book explores the life and writings of people like C.H. Spurgeon, the greatest figure in modern evangelical/reformed churchmanship, who was resolutely anti-war precisely because he took the Bible seriously.
The book concludes by arguing that as the church increasingly ditches its unbiblical addiction to war – which has led to so much harm to the church and the world –we may thus be on the verge of the most exciting period of church history.
Nick Megoran is Honorary Chaplain and Reader in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, England. The author of numerous articles and books, including The War on Terror: How Should Christians Respond? (2007), he has researched war, violence, and peace around the world. This post relates to his current book Warlike Christians in An Age of Violence; Wipf & Stock, 2017. 330pp. $38 pbk and eBook