Throughout Christianity, there is not just one teaching about war and peace there are many different teachings and views. Christians believe that God wants them to live in peace but there are different ways to achieve this. This is were view
s on whether war is right or wrong differ. There are a variety of teachings concerning war ranging from: pacifism, non-resistance, just war, preventive and crusade.
Here are two definitions of pacifism:
* The belief that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully.
* Opposition to war or violence as a means of resolving disputes1.
Most Christian's are pacifist because that they believe that it is never right to use violence, whatever the circumstances, even to achieve what it 'right' or to defeat 'evil'.
This is different to those who believe in non-violence, these can be Christians or non-Christians. People who believe in non-violence believe that there are other ways to get what you want. This is not doing nothing, they are just using other method's to accomplish what they want for example marches, protests, boycotts and sit-ins. A famous example of a peaceful protest that succeeded brilliantly was they boycott of the bus system for black rights in 1955. This was led by Martin Luther King even thought he was not a Christian believed very strongly in pacifism and used his methods very effectively which helped him to achieved what he wanted.
There are also many different teachings in the Bible and Jesus' word about war and peace. In the bible there is no set rules against war, there are many different passages that talk about war but they say many different things.
You have heard that the Law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.2
Here Jesus is telling Christian's not to 'Hate your enemy' but to 'Love your enemies' he is telling you to be peaceful and to be good even to those who are not good to you. Jesus says to 'pray for those who persecute you' by praying you can get God to help you instead of sorting it out by other means such as violence, aggression or fighting. Also by doing this you will be demonstrating actions of a true Christian.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.3
This quote once again says that 'those who work for peace' or those that are peaceful and work at finding peaceful ways of resolution will be blessed by god and will be called the 'children of God'. These two quotes demonstrate Jesus praising those who are peaceful.
Peter "Put away your sword," Jesus told him. "Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword."4
This teaching is the opposite of the two other teachings, it condemns violence, it directly tells Peter, one of Jesus' disciples that he should not use violence, even in this context when it is to protect Jesus.
On the other hand some of Jesus' actions that are written in the Bible completely contradict Jesus' teachings a very well known example is when Jesus entered the temple to find it full of dealers that were using it for dishonest purposes.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.5
This could be interpreted as; it is sometimes it is acceptable to use violence for a just cause. Overall Jesus' teachings are mainly pacifist.
Also in the early Bible there are many similar pacifistic teachings. But in the later Bible the teaching become more focussed on fighting, in particular to gain land.
Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.6
For everything there is a season, and a time for very purpose under heaven; a time for war, and a time for peace.7
This shows that there was sometimes a need to fight and that there would be fighting, whether this passage refers to a just war I am unsure.
The middle ages were the first recorded history of Christian fighting or violence. The Christians fighting in these wars believe that God was on their side and that they were fighting evil. They believed that they were fighting for the right thing by trying to re-capture the 'Holy Land'. These were considered 'Holy Wars'.
In the thirteenth century St. Augustine first decided to introduce some rules to see whether it would be 'right' for Christians to go to war or not. This set of rules has become known as 'Just War'. The rules that have to be met for a war to be just were:
* War should be declared by a proper authority such as a government or a king, and not just by any ordinary group of people.
* There must be a good reason for starting a war, not simply greed.
* The reason for going to war must be a desire to do good.
* War must be a last resort when everything else has been tried first.
* The good that is likely to come out of the war must amount to more than the harm that will be done.
* It must be possible to win. Wars should not be fought against an opponent that is obviously more likely to succeed.
* The war must be fought fairly. The amount of force used must only be enough to succeed. There must not be deliberate unnecessary cruelty.
Although these rules have changed considerably since they were introduced.
Just war recognises that there is some evil in the world and it can't be avoided it must be got rid of. There are two teachings on just war these are 'Jus as bellum' a set of rules that dictate what must happen before going to war, to check if the war is just and 'Jus in bello' a set of rules that dictate what must happen once war has begun, to make sure that once again it is fair and just.
Some of the time a war is needed to 'get rid of the bad in the world'. An example of this is a story from the Bible called Noah's Ark. This is where God created a flood to rid the world of evil people. "Conquer evil with good". Christians believe that sometimes there is a need for a war.
The Church of England teaches that war can't be avoided; it is something that may have to happen in order to rid the world of a greater evil. The Church of England also believe that Britain needs some nuclear weapons as a deterrent and for a multilateral disarmament, but not that its should be used. The Catholic Church agrees with their point that nuclear weapons should only be used for this purpose.
There are also Christians that are called conscientious objectors. These Christians believe this because they feel that violence of any sort is morally wrong that God would not want them to harm another of 'his' human beings. 'Blessed are the peacemakers' Matthew 5;9. They believe that it is against their conscious.
The Quakers are a branch of Christianity who are completely opposed to war, they do recognise that there is evil in the word but they teach that it can't be defeated by violence, weapons and war. They believe that Christians should instead use the 'weapons of the Spirit' - love, truth and peace to overcome evil. Quakers are against having and using nuclear weapons.
But as different religions and branches of Christianity teach variations against war and having and using nuclear weapons, we cannot group them all in to one single group and say this is what they all teach.
The "just war" position is the middle position in the spectrum and is the view that has been most prevalent throughout church history. It is also a view that was developed largely by Christians (especially Ambrose, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas).
Another problem with war is that it challenges the sanctity of life because Christian's believe that human life is sacred and that there is something special or holy about human life. This is because the image of God is sacred and because 'God created man in his own image'8, this means that humans and human life is also sacred.
Christians believe that every human life is special to God. It doesn't then make sense for a Christian to go off to war and start killing all 'God's people'. Christian's believe God has given you life he is the only one who has the power to take you're life away from you. 'There is a time for everything a time to be born and a time to die'9. Most Christians believe God decides when your life begins and when it ends. Thus it is shown as it is one of the Ten Commandments 'Thou shall not kill'. It is forbidden to take away a life that God has created. It is not acceptable to kill someone or even something else. Also taking you're own life is not consider acceptable as it is taking a life when only God should have the power to do so. In war this is exactly what you are doing you are taking other people's lives.
In conclusion there are many different views on war and pacifism none of them are definitely right or wrong it just depends on what each individual Christian's beliefs are on the subject and what they personally have been taught but most Christians believe that violence and war are wrong.