How should Christians think about war? On this episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols discusses how Augustine helps us to approach this question from a Christian perspective.
Augustine of Hippo provided the church with a number of crucial phrases. We have the phrase ex nihilo, meaning that creation was made out of nothing. Another phrase that Augustine gave us is not only important for the church but actually one that’s important for political philosophy. The Latin expression is jus ad bellum, or “just war.”
Augustine’s thinking on the topic grew out of his circumstances. In 410, as the Visigoths were laying waste to Rome, the Romans blamed the Christians and their refusal to participate in the civic religion for the city’s downfall. Augustine wrote an apologetic response: The City of God. In this book, Augustine provides helpful guidance for thinking about what it means to be a Christian in challenging times. But he also sketches out his idea of a just war. He laid out two components to his theory of just war: the first concerned legitimate reasons for going to war, and the second concerned how a state or a military ought to conduct itself in order to wage war in a just manner.
These were important questions for Christians. Many Christians up until Augustine’s day were pacifists, based on their reading of the sixth commandment—“Thou shalt not kill.” Augustine thought about the issue a little bit differently. His reading of the New Testament, and particularly regarding Christians’ obligation to the state as outlined in Romans 13, led him to believe that the state does have an obligation in waging war. So he moved away from a pacifist understanding of war. But how are we as Christians to approach the topic of war from a Christian perspective? This is where Augustine helps us. The first thing he does is ask how we are to think about war and about the point of war. It sounds counterintuitive, but this is what Augustine says: “We wage wars because we are interested in peace. It is ultimately peace that we seek, not war, and war is a means not to itself, but it is a means to peace.” He goes on: “For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing part which compels the wise man to wage just wars, and this wrongdoing, even though it gave rise to war, should still be a matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrongdoing. Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils—so horrible, so ruthless—acknowledge that this is misery.” Augustine is saying that war is misery, but it is necessary for peace.
In thinking about war, Augustine lays out criteria for a just war, reasons why a nation should go to war. He makes the case that, first of all, war should be a last resort. Are there other options? States should exhaust diplomatic options before going to war. He then asks, what are the parameters of war? He talks about whether the war will end once the cause for the war is avenged and the reason for the war is accomplished. He asks if there has been a wrong committed that warrants a war. Then he asks, is force used properly? In a war, there should be a distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and civilians should be protected. In asking these questions, Augustine helped us as Christians to think about just war.
(This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Augustine of Hippo wrote many books, including his Confessions and City of God. One of his somewhat lesser-known works is a book from the year 420 called the Enchiridion. Augustine was around sixty-six years old at the time he wrote it, and he had been a Christian for thirty-five years. The Enchiridion is a short handbook or manual. Sometimes it’s called Augustine’s Catechism or his treatise on faith, hope, and love or faith, hope, and charity. I’d like to simply call it Augustine’s “Handbook on Life.”
The book is addressed “to my dearest son, Laurence.” Laurence was not Augustine’s actual son; Augustine is referring to Laurence as a sort of spiritual son or a son in the faith. We don’t know much about Laurence. He was a Roman official, a tribune, living in Africa, and he was a man of some importance and some stature in that day. He had written to Augustine to ask a significant question: How can Christian doctrine be summarized? Augustine takes the question and he sort of says, “Well, Laurence, let me help you articulate the question you’re really asking.” And the question is this: How can God be worshiped? This tells us a lot about what Augustine thinks of doctrine and what he thinks doctrine ultimately leads us to. And not only is the worship of God a way to talk about theology, it is also for Augustine a way to talk about life. So, what we are after here in this little book is,
“How shall we then live? How shall we worship God?”
“God is to be worshiped with faith, hope, and charity.”
Now, the majority of the book is about faith. We worship God based on what we believe in and what we believe about God. In order to unfold this idea, Augustine walks Laurence through the Apostles’ Creed. At one point, he talks about faith in Christ the Redeemer and says we are under the wrath of God because of original sin:
“We are the enemies of God and God is angry at us.”
And then Augustine says this:
“When God is said to be angry, this does not mean that his mind was disturbed, like the mind of a person who is angry, but his vengeance, which is nothing but just, is, by an extension of meaning, called his anger.”
We are under the wrath of God, the vengeance of God because we are sinners. Then he says this:
“So our reconciliation with God by a mediator and our reception of the Holy Spirit to make us children of the one to whom we were enemies . . . this is the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is what we believe; this is where our faith lies.
Then we have hope. When Augustine turns to hope, he turns to the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer gives expression to our hope, our hope for our needs and ultimately, our hope for the kingdom of God. As the Lord’s Prayer ends, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.” Then Augustine ends with charity. We live in love to God and in love to others. And that, according to Augustine, is a handbook for life.
(This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Day-Age Creationism is the idea that the days mentioned in the Genesis 1 Creation Story are not actual 24-hour days, but metaphorical days that stretch thousands of years, or even millions and billions. It’s a theory that’s only a couple centuries old, promoted by such notable “Old-Earth Creationists” such as Sir Charles Lyell, Lord Kelvin, and William Jennings Bryan.
Now, some say Augustine of Hippo believed in an “Old Earth”. But that’s a myth. Augustine wrote three commentaries on Genesis, and it’s clear he believed the days in Genesis 1 to be literal days and the genealogies and chapters 5 to 11 to be literal chronologies.
“[God] spoke, and they were made, He commanded, and they were created. Creation, therefore, did not take place slowly in order that a slow development might be implanted in those things that are slow by nature; nor were ht ages established at plodding pace at which they now pass. Time brings about the development of these creatures according to the laws of their numbers, but there was no passage of time when they received these laws at creation.”
Augustine of Hippo, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”
Vol. 1, Book 4, Chapter 33, pg. 141
One of the Biblical arguments for Day-Age Creationism is the interpretation of Yom, Hebrew word for “day”. Sometimes Yom means more than a 24-hour day, as in Psalm 137, “The day of Jerusalem” or Isaiah 13:6, “The Day of the Lord”.
1. A period of light.
“So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night.” (Numbers 9:16)
2. A period of 24 hours.
“The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:10)
3. A general, vague time.
“Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!” (Isaiah 13:6)
4. A year.
“And the number of days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months. (1 Samuel 27:7)
The problem with applying this interpretation of Genesis 1 is that everything is qualified with evening and morning and a number.
“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:5)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1:8)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.” (Genesis 1:13)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:19)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:23)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)
And every time in the Old Testament that a day is described in such a way, it’s in reference to a normal day.
“The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from the morning till evening.” (Exodus 18:13)
“No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning.” (Deuteronomy 16:14)
“For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.” (1 Samuel 17:16)
The main argument for the Day-Age theory comes from Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3,
“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4)
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
But, the point is not the age of the earth.
The point is mercy.
“For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire being kept until the day of judgment… But do not overlook this one fact. Beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:5-9)
There is no reason to believe the earth is millions or billions of years old. God is infinitely powerful who created all things as instantly as we about it… when we understand the text.
(Many of the Bible stories and verses we think we know, we don’t! When We Understand the Text is an internet-based video ministry committed to righting some of the wrong understanding of scripture, all while advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out more at WWUTT.com!)