Why Does God Allow War
(Editor's note: Martyn Lloyd-Jones is recognized as one of the great preachers of the 20th century. What sets his work apart may be that his message of faith—not his prose or exegesis or logic—but his faith was tested in the crucible of war. Lloyd-Jones pastored Westminster Chapel in London from 1938 to 1968. He spent many dark nights during World War Two in bomb shelters, preaching to his war-ravaged countrymen, comforting them in their losses, and confronting their hard questions: "Why does God allow war?" and "Why must the innocent suffer?"
His answer here, excerpted from a larger work first published in 1939, may at first seem harsh. The venerable preacher pulls no punches. But set in the larger context of the goodness and sovereignty of God, Lloyd-Jones's answers were sure to alert his hearers to deeper realities. His honesty, instructive to our ministries, may help as we confront these issues again in our time. Beyond the political debate or protests, beyond blaming or justification, there is the work of Christian ministry. We are called to console the grieving and instruct the perplexed, to strengthen the weak-kneed, and bring to their knees all who need to understand God's redemptive acts in our living history.
Whatever the causes and circumstances of international conflict, the deeper truths remain. God allows war. And he has a purpose.)
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" James 4:1
This actual question of "Why does God allow war?" is not considered or raised as such in the Bible at all. The text we have chosen is the nearest approach to it; for it does raise the question of the origin of war.
As James reminds us, the ultimate cause of war is lust and desire; this restlessness that is a part of us as the result of sin; this craving for that which is illicit and for that which we cannot obtain. It shows itself in many ways, both in personal, individual life, and also in the life of nations. In precisely the same way it leads to personal quarrels and strife, [it leads] to wars between nations.
The Bible does not isolate war, as if it were something separate and unique and quite apart, as we tend to do in our thinking. It is but one of the manifestations of sin, one of the consequences of sin.
(1) God permits war in order that men may bear the consequences of their sins as punishment. How clearly this is shown time and time again in the story of the Children of Israel! They disobeyed God and flouted his holy laws. For a while all was well. But then they began to suffer. God withdrew his protecting care from them, and they were at the mercy of their enemies.
Every painful consequence of sin is a part of the punishment meted out for sin. But someone may raise the objection, and ask: "But why do the innocent suffer?"
First, there is no such person as the innocent. We are all sinful. But furthermore, we clearly have to reap the consequences not only of our own personal sins, but also of the sins of the entire race; and on a smaller scale, the sin of our particular country or group.