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Modern and historical Christian thought on war. Is it ever justified, and if so, what makes a 'just' war? The main Christian view of war ethics is contained in the doctrine of the Just War. The basic assumption of modern Christians is that war is rarely justified and should be avoided unless the Just War conditions are met. An individual Christian may believe that the standard of evidence and argument required for them to support a war is higher than the standard of evidence that national leaders may require to go to war.
Christianity is no longer if it ever was wholly against war. Some say that modern Christianity has a 'presumption against war', but others say that it has a 'presumption against injustice' - and the bias against war comes from the injustice that war can do. This view says that the aim of Christianity is to promote a world in which peace and justice flourish everywhere: war may sometimes be the tool needed to do this, and waging war may sometimes be a lesser evil a lesser injustice than allowing injustice to persist or tolerating the victimisation of innocent people.
How do Christian chaplains in the armed forces feel about war? Christians have a long history of refusing to take part in war. Many Christians are pacifists of various types. These range from peace activists to those who need a great deal to convince them that war is justified. The Christian argument for pacifism is based partly on Jesus's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and other places, and in the example that Jesus sets Christians through his life.
Origen said that Christians "do not go forth as soldiers". Tertullian wrote "only without the sword can the Christian wage war: for the Lord has abolished the sword. This changed rapidly in the time of Constantine - the Council of Arles in said that to forbid "the state the right to go to war was to condemn it to extinction", and shortly after that Christian philosophers began to formulate the doctrine of the Just War.
For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto. For that reason Christ set us an example by washing feet. Believers are of one family and of equal rank. Much rather each shall esteem the other higher than himself. It has now been sufficiently demonstrated that God has given to the unbelieving world the government to resist evil.
Therefore our opposites, the supposed Christians, insist in introducing into Christendom the power of the sword with the government to execute vengeance. But as God in the figurative law gave and commanded to Moses the vengeance and power of the sword to punish the evil, this does not apply to Christians in the New Testament. For Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law, has cancelled it. We have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that we are now no longer under Moses but with another—of course, with him who was raised from the dead.
Only what Christ teaches us by word and example applies to Christians. Therein they are to follow after him. For in his kingdom he has created a new order. God gave Israel the law that through the law it might be made clear how great sin is. And for sin and transgression God set an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a body for a body. And this vengeance in the law, to punish transgression without pity, remained in force until the coming of the promised seed which is Christ Jesus.
When Christ, a king of peace, came into the kingdom of Israel and was seated according to the promise of God on the throne of his father David, he then inaugurated in his kingdom a new spiritual regime and a new covenant which he sealed and instituted with his own blood.
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For the Prince of our salvation was made perfect through suffering, which testament is not made according to the old one, which executes wrath, but he has a new peaceable kingdom in which mercy and forgiveness of sins operate. Just as Christ inherited the royal throne from the tribe of Judah, he also inherited the office of High Priest from the tribe of Levi, which two high offices Melchizedek, a priest and king, forshadowed.
Thou are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. For of what benefit to us was the blood of oxen or rams? It was an introduction of a better hope in the blood of Christ, through which we are cleansed and washed, which blood cleanses us from all sin. But now that the priesthood was changed and passed on to Christ, Paul says, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. In the law sin takes the upper hand.
In Christ, mercy still more takes the upper hand. Therefore he abolished vengeance.
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Christ has redeemed us from the vengeance of the law and established a peaceable kingdom in which the vengeful sword is put away and broken, and warlike weapons have been recast. The believing and peaceable in the kingdom of Christ here on earth dwell safely among one another; none injures or kills another with weapons of war.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
There he brake the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. All of these many cited Scriptures and Psalms pertain to all the peacemakers in the kingdom of Christ and his church, among whom all warlike weapons are broken to pieces and cast away, as has been frequently proved. You shall not resist evil, because Christ forbids ruling with force in his kingdom and says: The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
But it shall not be so among you. However, the following section condemning Constantine was left out, probably because it was considered too jarring by those trying to make inroads into the state church. He was baptized by Pope Sylvester, the antichrist, the son of perdition, whose coming took place through the work of the terrible devil. Therefore he received the name Christian falsely. For the Christian church was thereby transformed into the antichristian church. This apostasy was foretold by Paul.
Then the devil, who had hitherto been bound by the Christian church, was released from his prison and proceeded to lead the heathen astray in the four corners of the earth. For the shameful Babylonian whore has made all the heathen drunken from her golden beaker into which the wine of sorcery, i. And although this Babylonian whore lives vilely and shamefully in sin and abomination and follows a devilish doctrine, it is nevertheless called the Christian and apostolic church by supposed Christians. Hence the lawless abomination exists in the holy place where it should not be.
Let him who reads this heed it. The supposed Christians who want to introduce the vengeance of the law into the kingdom of Christ cannot accomplish anything thereby.
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For Christ is the end of the law. We become dead to the law through the body of Christ, so that we have another law. There it is no longer a matter of body for body but only love and mercy, repentance and forgiveness of sins, loving the foe and praying for him. If a ruler wants to be a Christian he must first be born again through the Holy Spirit, and must conform to the teaching of Christ and his example, and must be minded as Jesus Christ was minded.
He must not resist evil, may punish no one according to the law, and no longer execute vengeance with the sword. Rather he must love his enemy, drink the cup of suffering, pray for his enemies, and turn the other cheek, as Christ teaches. For it is certain that Christ has paved this only and narrow path for his followers, and neither emperor nor king, neither prince nor lord will find any other way to heaven than this way of the cross which he himself trod and which all those who will be saved must tread.
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