I can probably count on my hands the number of Christian’s I know who are opposed to war.
Which means that most Christians I know aren’t very good Christians, except that ‘good’ is a very poor way of evalutating Christians. Maybe a better way of phrasing it is that most Christians I know do not have a very good understanding of Scripture or theology.
The Hitler argument seems to be very popular with Christian advocates of war. The Hitler argument claims that Hitler was so powerful, and so evil, that war was the only solution to stopping Hitler. Therefore, any kind of pacifist response is automatically disqualified because it is unable to provide a viable alternative solution to stopping war.
The irony in the Hitler illustration is that the problem war proponents have with pacifism is the very same problem I have with war. Namely that Christians have the obligation, let alone the capacity, to determine when any act of violence, or any other carefully crafted ‘strategery’ can be a solution to the problem of evil.
There are a number of reasons why Christians are incapable of creating a solution to the problem of evil. Here are two:
- Christians are sinners.
- God already has a solution to the problem of evil.
The fact that Christians are sinners (and by sinners I mean those with both the history and the propensity to sin) does not mean that Christians are incapable of recognizing evil; but it does mean that, as sinful cohorts, Christians are incapable of judging evil. This is exactly the point John Howard Yoder makes in his doctoral thesis Karl Barth and the Problem of War, where he criticized Barth’s belief that one could have the moral objectivity to determine when a war may or may not be just.
More importantly, for Christians there is no need to create a solution to the problem of evil because the solution already exists in the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, in attempting to create our own solutions to the problem of evil we demonstrate that we believe God’s solution is simply not good enough.
A more faithful response to evil begins with following Christ’s example of death and resurrection.
To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21
This is not to suggest that the Christian response to evil involves idly sitting in front of the television waiting to die (even though that seems like a pretty popular option for Christians in America). But what I hope is clear from this post is that the starting point for a Christian discussion of war and evil should not start with the work of Adolf Hitler, but start with the work of Jesus Christ.