War is a difficult topic. As Christians, are we bound to participate in war? Is there such a thing as a just war? Does God encourage us to wage war? Indeed, can we claim He is on our side? Big philosophical and ethical questions abound when the topic is war.
Rev Tim Costello, is a Baptist Minister and Ambassador at Large for World Vision Australia. He is also head of Christian justice and poverty action group group, Micah Australia. He is someone with a deep knowledge of Christian thought and tradition who is at the same time very in touch with the world and its many problems – including war – in the modern age.
For our program on the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War One we asked Tim Costello to share his thoughts on Christians and war.
“I would give you two quotes that resonate with me. Martin Luther said “War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity. It destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families.” That’s Martin Luther the great reformer.
“Martin Luther King Jr added to it. He said,”The country that continues, year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” says Tim Costello.
“So whether you’re actively at war or always just preparing for it, there are profound costs.” he says.
War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity
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“You know, when you think humans seem to be wired for war, you step back and you think why?
“I think patriotism is a very fine think. I happen to love Australia. I love the culture, I love the people. I’m very patriotic.
“Patriotism doesn’t then say ‘But my culture and my people are better than another culture and another people.’ Nationalism then gets into triumphalism and prestige- we are superior”.
“That’s why I often think the most important verse in the new testament is ‘For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God’ [Romans 3:23]. It means no one is superior non one’s inferior. We can love our place without saying it’s superior to another place.”
“This Armistice, I think we really have to reflect on what is it in our nature that drives us to think we are superior and can use weapons to go to war. That war-likeness in us has to be undone.” says Tim Costello.
For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God
For more information on war and philosophy including the concepts of Holy War, Just war and Christians and war check out the excellent BBC resource on the ethics of war. For some insight into army what army chaplains think about war try this link.
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