"War is a dreadful thing," wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. "I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays, which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it."

This quote begins the recent book When God Says War Is Right (Waterbrook Press, 2002) by Dr. Darrell Cole, assistant professor of religion at Drew University.

Cole argues that war is not merely a "necessary evil." Instead, he writes, it's sometimes the right thing for a Christian to do.

Why shouldn't we view war as a necessary evil?

There are no necessary evils in Christian morality. We sometimes have to take the lesser of two courses, but that doesn't make it evil. We should always abstain from evil, and we should follow Paul who said, explicitly, "Never do evil that good may come."

If you're entering into something with a long face or a troubled conscience, that's probably a good indication you shouldn't be doing it. We can't stoop to evil just to bring about a good consequence.

Why do we have the impression that most early Christians were pacifists?

We've gotten that idea because a great many scholars early in the 19th century were basing their research on incomplete data. Those researchers were generally very much liberal humanists. They wanted to see Jesus, Jesus' followers, and the early church in their own way of life.

Research over the past 50 or 60 years has shown that the term pacifism, as we use it to mean that all bloodshed as inherently evil—simply did not exist in the early Christian community. Early Christians did not participate in war because the Roman soldiers distrusted them ...

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The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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