Science in Christian Perspective
CAN A CHRISTIAN STAY FREE BY KILLING?
Richard H. Bube
From: JASA 24 (September 1972): 89-91.
The Christian who seeks to be an evangelical witness in the modern world faces a number of dilemmas, lie faces the dilemma of relating the scientific view of man as a determined biochemical organism to the Biblical view of man as a responsible chooser. He faces the dilemma of serving the Lord constructively by working for the betterment of a world which he knows is destined for destruction. And he faces the dilemma of choosing between killing and losing freedom. All of these dilemmas are of extreme significance, not only for the Christian position itself, but for the effect of Christian evangelical witness to the world. Yet it seems that very little careful thought is given to the question: Is a Christian justified in killing to preserve political freedom?
This is an extremely practical question. The budgets of all the major countries of the world are skewed strongly in the direction of defense spending-defense of their own native right to live in a certain way against the threat of others who would force other ways of life upon them. It is not too simplistic to claim that no modern nation ever arms for aggression: all arm for defense. It is true, of course, that sometimes "offense is the best defense" and so wars break out as one nations defense runs up against that of another nation. Certainly it appears deeply ingrained in American political philosophy that it is not only permissible hut morally necessary to kill in order to preserve freedom. Does a Christian have the right to kill in order to stay free?
Several traditional approaches to responding to this question actually seek to avoid the question. Note that the issue raised here is not that of "better Red than dead." We are not asking the question, Should a Christian be willing to die rather than lose his freedom? To that question a variety of answers might he given. American tradition focusses on the words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death." It would seem an extremely difficult task even to defend the thesis that a Christian ought to die rather than lose his political freedom. But however we might answer this question, it is not the question with which we are here concerned.
Neither do we face here the questions of pacifism, self-defense, legitimacy of police forces, or even the legitimacy of armed forces. I believe a strong Biblical case can be made against absolute pacifism, on the grounds that our responsibility to our brother imposes on us the necessity to he prepared and able to restrain evil. A wide spectrum of' choices are available within the context of restraining evil in love which do not encompass killing to preserve political freedom.
\\'e face a much harder question-a question so disturbing that I daresay few Christians care to face up to it. The decision we must face is that of another's imposing his will upon us, not at the expense of our life, but at the expense of our freedom. (It is true that if we refuse to give up our freedom, it may indeed cost us our life.) He is a grim imposer, this specter sve face, this collective symbol of oppression from either left or right of the political spectrum, and he will not back away sinless we kill him. He does not desire our life, but our subjection; he will not yield unless we take his life from him. What then is the Christian to do?
I suggest to you that there is not a shred of Biblical evidence that can be adduced to support the right of the Christian to kill under such circumstances. Political liberty is not something that is guaranteed to the Christian. Sometimes be has it as a special blessing from God; sometimes he does not, Whenever lie seeks to lay hold on it, make it his own, and deign even to kill to preserve it, it disappears before his eyes. His supposed freedom is transformed into a new bondage; his Christian witness becomes a message for disillusionment and disgust. These considerations are no less true in international considerations than they are in national.
If this is too staggering a concept to be faced, consider a much milder and even more unquestionable Biblical requirement. Do you suppose that there is the slightest hint in any passage of Scripture that Christians, members of the Body of Christ, are justified in doing violence against one another, in killing one another for political motives? That Christians may disagree can be understood on the basis of differences in human perception; that Christians should do harm to one another is unthinkable. Consider the following minimal pledge.
In view of the unity of the Body of Christ, I will neither engage in nor support violence or war directed against any other Christian.
This pledge is so minimal, it almost seems tautological-until we
think of the
incessant warfare between Christians in all days and in all times,
until we think
of the impact on world opinion that would he made when Christians in
countries refuse to take part. Unless we at least accept such a minimal pledge
as a goal to he desired, and its a goal toward which all Christians
commit themselves, then our Christian witness may' have some effect
lives here and there where its gross inconsistencies are not evident-but in the
full light of its inherent power, it will he as only a weak and
Evangelism claims to bring a man into a new life-giving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. It claims to transform a man's life, his woridview, his self-image, his perception of others, his motives, his relationship to the rest of mankind. Such a change cannot be only in theory; it must be also in practice. Is it true? Does becoming a Christian carry! svith it such a life-changing refocus of values? Or do we only talk about it as an unrealizable ideal-nice but impractical? If the latter, then our evangelism may prosper as God is willing to use even the faulty' and sickly to accomplish his will, bill it will exist encumbered with that great fatal doubt: perhaps there is nothing to Christian transformation of life after all.