Full Text for Dogmatics 4- Volume 16 - Where do we stand on the topic of war? And what reasons lie behind our position? (Video)

No. 16. >> I may be opening a big can of worms here. But it seems to me that you are probably going to argue that this left hand-right hand stuff would have something important to say about war, just war, passivism and the church's thinking on these topics. Where do we stand on the topic of war? And what reasons lie behind our position? >>DR. JOEL D. BIERMANN: Yes, David, you're right. You're opening a can of worms. And there is so much that has been written and said and thought about this. Especially since the whole war on terror that has been declared by our President. And the whole thinking of what's appropriate to do. All the questions about the Iraq war. Preemptive strike. Is this right or not. Man, there's a bunch of thought and work going on in this. And there's no way I can get into all of that. But I do want to try to give some baseline ideas of how you might begin to think about this. And yeah, you're right. I think the two realms has a lot to say about this and gives us a lot of clarity and how we begin to sort out the right responses and maybe the not so right responses. Remember I said at the beginning, it's very important that we keep a distinction between these and don't let them become confused. So we have left hand stuff and right hand stuff. The right hand is all about the Gospel and declaring forgiveness of sins. The left hand is all about enforcing justice and upholding the law. Now, the question is: The government functions in the left hand. And what is the government's No. 1 job. To uphold justice and enforce the law. And to protect citizens. War then becomes sometimes the inevitable responsibility of the left hand. So a just war would be when the government has just cause to wage war against another government that is perhaps afflicting its own people or threatening its own people. And so we have actually a set of criteria for just war. Rules to think about before the war starts. Rules to think about while the war is going on. And you can explore some of that further if you're really interested in that. You know, do you -- you know, proportionality and the appropriate response and minimizing casualties, all things come into play in this thing. But the bottom line is this: The government has the job of taking care of its people and enforcing justice. When they see injustice being done on a country wide basis, is it appropriate for them to sometimes step in and say: Stop it? Yeah, it is. It is. World War II is a great example of this. The nations watch as Hitler and his war machine take over Poland. And then move in to the low countries and just keep on spreading further and further. And eventually they say: This is wrong. He is violating people's sovereignty. He's hurting people. And they hadn't even gotten into the whole issues of the Holocaust and what he was doing against the whole nation of the Jewish people. Even that wasn't even known yet. But even on the face of what he was doing already was already wrong. And they said: This must stop. So the countries of the world stood up and say: Stop. And they went to war to stop this. Was that appropriate? Yes? Now, was everything that happened in World War II always following just war rules? No, it wasn't. And the whole issues of the atom bomb and the daytime raids over Germany where they were bombing civilian targets, you have to wonder about the justice of those things. And there are problems. But the basic premise of a country trying to stop another country from doing evil, that's appropriate. And there's a place for this. Christians get confused on this. And they'll think: Now, wait a minute. Didn't Jesus say turn the other cheek? So if somebody does something bad, shouldn't we as a country turn the other cheek? And that's where you have confusion going on. Because the rule of turn the other cheek is applied to you as a Christian individual in your life. But as a citizen of the left hand, you have a responsibility to take care of your neighbor. And protect him. And so you need to sometimes enforce justice. And retaliate against evil to stop it from going further. This is going to sound confusing. But this is really important. Luther made a big distinction, a very helpful distinction, between what I do as an individual and what I do in my responsibilities in my vocation. So as an individual Christian, I don't ever claim my own rights. I don't say: Hey, you're violating my space. I demand my rights. As an individual Christian, I do turn the other cheek. So some crook breaks in and tries to steal my silver, Luther would say: Give him your candlesticks, too, and send him on his way. If it's only your situation being considered here. However, if he breaks into your neighbor's house, get over there, tackle the guy, and haul him to jail. Because you want to protect your neighbor's stuff. Now, extrapolate this out a little bit and you say: Well, okay. He breaks into my house and stealing my stuff, he's going to go to my neighbor next, then I should arrest him. And you're right, you should. But you're not doing it so much to protect your own stuff but because this is what's right for the country. This is what's right for your neighbor. The same thing applies to soldiers. Luther wrote a long treatise and it was answering the question: Can soldiers be saved? And his answer was yes, absolutely. Because soldiers are carrying out left hand responsibilities, serving the left hand, serving their neighbor as they serve the left hand but they can even do it as Christians who believe in Christ and who believe they shouldn't murder. Because when they are taking the sword, they are taking it in the name of the government for the sake of the neighbor. And that's appropriate. So Christians who say, "Hey, we as a country should turn the other cheek" are dead wrong. Because they are confusing the two realms. And they aren't recognizing that God works in the left hand to thwart evil and promote justice. And so passivism seems right on the surface of it. But I would say it's a gross confusion of the two realms. And it's trying to drag the Kingdom of God into this world where Jesus said: It isn't fit. Not until I come again together in glory. So I think it does help to start thinking in two realms thing as you sort these things out. Man, I can think of just sitting here three or four or five different scenarios and what ifs and all of these situations that spin out of this just like that. But that's kind of almost into another topic, another issue. But I think we can begin to think about how we can begin to approach this. Making the distinction between left hand and right hand. Between what God does in the horizontal and what he does in the vertical. One more example and then I'll leave this. Luther even went so far as to say one time in one of his writings, he said: If your local town is running short on trying to find good hang men, then you as a Christian could certainly volunteer. Go and do that work. It sounds like: What do you mean? I should go and volunteer to kill people? And Luther says: Well, yeah. Because you're doing your left hand vocation, serving the state by using the sword. But you're still a Christian that does it. I'll give you one more example. I just thought of another one. There is a story about a Lutheran sheriff who is serving out west. And he was tracking down this serial killer and after him for a long time. And he finally through good police work captured this guy. Arrested him. Hauled him off to jail. And then the story goes that he arrested this guy, put him in jail. And then he went home, put on his civilian clothes. And then came back. And went into the jail cell. And shared Christ with that inmate. I would say he's got it right. In the left hand he's enforcing justice. Arrest the guy. Takes him to trial. Locks him up. On the right hand, he's trying to meet that guy's No. 1 need. A relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing what God has done for him. Both things are true. So he wears his literally left hand clothing when he's serving the left hand. And upholds the law. But then he also knows the place of proclaiming the Gospel. And he does that, too. Both things. And one does not trump the other.