Warlike Christians in an Age of Violence: The Evangelical Case against War and for Gospel Peace

Warlike Christians in an Age of Violence: The Evangelical Case against War and for Gospel Peace
John Palmer
John Palmer John Palmer lives in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
20 June, 2018 2 min read

‘War is sin’ (p.2). This introductory statement accurately gives the thesis of this book, which it seeks to prove from Scripture.

The writer repeatedly refers to the ‘gospel of peace’. This phrase is used to mean more than peace with God or peace between Christians. It is extended to mean peace as an absence of armed conflict.

There is further room for disquiet. The author’s examples of Christians include Tony Blair, the pope and Desmond Tutu. Throughout the book, examples of non-violence are drawn indiscriminately from all sections of the so-called ‘Christian church’, not just those who would claim to be evangelical. This does not help to make the case that it is following the Bible which leads to embracing non-violence.

We encounter the familiar liberal/Anabaptist misapplication of Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies’ as referring to how we must relate to national enemies, rather than to individuals who personally wrong us. To distinguish the two is, allegedly, ‘unsustainable’ (p.53).

The author claims that his view is different from the pacifism of theological liberals. He criticises Don Carson for his ‘lamentable arguments’ and ‘tortured reasoning’ (p.21); instead he sides with Soren Kierkegaard, a liberal pacifist!

The Second World War is covered in detail, in order to prove that no participating nation was wholly good before it and therefore it could not be a ‘good war’. I find no suggestion as to what the Allies should have done instead of opposing Hitler to avert him enslaving Europe.

The historically questionable (and classically Marxist) thesis that naked imperialism was in fact the cause of WWII does not help us find an answer. Nor do the various appeals to those, including Spurgeon, who opposed British wars. In Spurgeon’s day these wars were being fought for colonial purposes. We do not know that he would have said the same had he lived during WWII.

There is a deeper flaw here. Arguments about whether any historical war was a just war are irrelevant as evidence of whether war can ever be justified. It is the teaching of Scripture that has final say in the matter.

After 199 pages of ‘Don’t fight’, we are told that this is not the primary message of the book! It is conceded that pacifism, on occasion, may not be good advice but rather ‘unloving neglect that only allows injustice to continue’. This overturns all the previous arguments.

The proposal is made that the church should seek to preach the gospel and make peace within churches and communities. This is fine, but still does not answer the question of how we know when it is lawful and right for an individual to participate in war.

Moreover, the wars of Old Testament Israel are justified, but how can this be if all war is wrong and the book declares on several occasions that there is no such thing as a ‘just war’? This is an attempt, surely, to have one’s cake and eat it. Such confusion pervades the book.

There is a fatal inconsistency in trying to prove that all war is evil from a Bible which teaches that war, though an evil, is sometimes necessary. Sadly, this book is full of faulty reasoning to prove a faulty thesis.

John Palmer


John Palmer
John Palmer lives in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
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