Holy War, Holy Peace: A biblical, historical and political perspective

09.07.15 | Articles

    With Dr. James Wallace
    January 2012

    The struggle between war and peace is a constant feature in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Some scriptures clearly endorse war, while others celebrate peace and advocate pacifism. Serious Christians stand on both sides of this difficult divide. Holy War, Holy Peace will examine the key biblical texts and history informing this dichotomy. One session will survey the controversial “Just War” theory. The goal of the course is to help students biblically wrestle with the moral difficulties created by war.

    Week 1: Jihad in the Land of Israel: An Old Testament view of war and peace

    The Old Testament pages are filled with stories of war and warriors – Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Deborah, Saul, David, Solomon, and more. Miriam declares, “The LORD is a warrior.” Israel was born in war and survived through many battles. The book of Deuteronomy describes in detail the concepts and customs of Holy War. Yet there were seasons of peace, treaties of peace, sacrifices of peace, and the prophet’s promise of a future era of peace. The aim of this class is to present an overview of the Jewish teachings about war and peace set in the historical context of perpetual Holy War. The class will also raise the question about whether Christians should situate their contemporary arguments about war and peace solely in the Old Testament or within the broader context of the whole Bible.

    Week 1 Slides
    Week 1 Handout

    Week 2: The Prince of Peace and Armageddon: A New Testament view of war and peace

    The New Testament begins with angels declaring “peace on earth” to all men because of the birth of the promised “Prince of Peace”. Yet war and conflict is ever present in the form of the Roman Army which ruled the world with brutal force. The writers of the Epistles introduce a new kind of warfare – spiritual warfare – and declare that we “do not wage war as the world does” . . . “we battle not against flesh and blood.” The end of the New Testament presents John’s apocalyptic vision of the Battle of Armageddon and the history-ending war that is waged in heaven and on earth followed by a thousand years of peace. This class will examine the key New Testament texts and teachings on war and peace, seeking to understand how diverse Christian groups interpret them so differently.

    Week 2 Slides
    Week 2 Handout
    Week 2 Supplemental Charts

    Week 3: The Art of War from Sun Tzu to von Clausewitz to Osama bin Laden: An historical overview of war

    Solomon declared, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So it is with warfare. Since the dawn of humankind, people have fought and killed each other by various means in various kinds of wars – tribal and clan, city-state and nation-state, religious war, civil war, conventional wars, and asymmetrical warfare. This class will present an historical overview of war throughout history – by time period, by type, by origin and location, by destruction, by justification and reason. The aim of the class is to provide a macro perspective that will allow the students to place theories and religious principles of warfare in a global-historical context.

    Week 3 Slides
    Week 3 Handout

    Week 4: Just War Theory from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush: A theoretical and political interpretation of war

    Just War Theory is a doctrine of ethics that proposes that for war to be “just” it must meet certain philosophical, religious and political criteria. Its origins are found in the teachings of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and it is the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church for justifying war. It has been used by numerous American presidents to justify the participation of the United States in military conflicts, most recently in 2003 when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Other theories of war have challenged Just War Theory including international law theory and Christian pacifism. This class will examine the use of biblical and theological principles in justifying and opposing war.

    Week 4 Slides
    Week 4 Handout